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EPURA: The Need For Public Vote?

To The Editor:

I support a public vote on EPURA reluctantly because I believe EPURA has done good things in the past for the Estes Valley and could do good things in the future. And if the public votes EPURA down, it will be very difficult to get it reinstated–that’s just the nature of public votes on taxing entities. Nevertheless, I support a public vote on EPURA because I do not believe that EPURA has yet made a strong enough case for its continued existence.

It has had several years to do so and it just hasn’t happened–despite good and well-intentioned members on the EPURA Board. It is disheartening to attend EPURA Board meetings and hear positive responses from the Board (despite the lack of funding) to business owners asking for funding for basic building renovation who justify their request by noting “EPURA has given money to other businesses in town.” It is disheartening that the Facade Program has been used to subsidize items such as teak patio furniture when the applicant business owner even candidly stated at the meeting that he “didn’t think such items would be allowed under the Facade program.”

And it is also disheartening to see EPURA suddenly decide, at the city’s request, to spend $1,000,000. for grandstand seats when not long before the decision, such an item was not even on EPURA’s planning radar. Are these reasons to discontinue EPURA? Not necessarily, but they are clear indications that EPURA has lost its way. Despite the Mayor’s eloquent “backpedaling defense” of EPURA in a recent column, it is clear that the Mayor “gets it,” and I fully agree with his statement, “We need to ensure that both town and EPURA investments are well-thought-out components of a long-range plan.” Unfortunately EPURA isn’t there yet, nor is the Town Board.

A public vote will force both EPURA (and the Town Board) to make its case–and the case should demonstrate a clear long-range vision; it should not simply consist of a laundry list of items the town has not yet managed to fund in other ways. Any organization would naturally love to have a back-up financing system for wish-list items (and if I were a town Board member, I would vote accordingly), but I don’t believe that should be the reason for EPURA’s existence. Therefore, as a taxpayer with broader interests than just the Town of Estes Park, I am going to weigh the case EPURA makes against the other possible recipients of my tax-increment money: the Estes Park Public Library, the Estes Valley Recreation District, the Estes Park Medical Center and the Estes Park Schools. These organizations, or special districts, also serve both residents and tourists; the difference is that they have had to make their case with public bond issues in a manner that EPURA has not. And in most cases in recent years, these districts have done a better job both serving and educating the general public. That is the challenge from taxpayers EPURA faces right now–which organizations are most deserving of taxpayer money–and it is appropriate that a public vote should force EPURA to meet that challenge.

Eric Waples
Estes Park, CO

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