Information Academy Kicks Off With Introduction To Organization And Goals Of Town Government
By: Barb Boyer Buck
Scientists, engineers, writers, a musician, airline industry professionals, computer programmers, financial wizards, a mental health councilor, a pastry chef … all in all, pretty typical representatives of Estes Park citizenry. Shake out the hills and mountains all around the valley and out will drop some of the most talented, educated, and resourceful people in the country.
But this particular group isn’t just a random sampling – these are some of the participants in this year’s Citizens Information Academy. Some hometown folks, but mostly those who have moved here within the last two-five years, these participants are seeking more information about our
Town government and some are looking for ways to become more involved.
Many of this year’s participants are relatively new retirees, attracted to the area for its pristine beauty, varied wildlife, small-town mountain living. They join the many before them who have turned their favorite vacation spot into the place to spend the rest of their lives. As one participant’s wife told him, upon seeing Estes Park for the first time, “Please don’t let me die in Dayton, Ohio.”
For this, the first session of CIA held at the Senior Center on February 4, participants were introduced to Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Levine– one of their own, in fact, as a former graduate of CIA and a transplant to the area. Levine described the goals of the Town Board as being more “visionary,” in deference to the uncertain economy.
Levine described the goals of the Town Board: improving internal and external communication; improving traffic and parking conditions; promoting the formation of a county-wide fire district; continuing with urban renewal; supporting the established marketing district; updating a Town-wide comprehensive plan; exploring the improvement of Stanley Park Fairgrounds; completing an Open Space Plan; facilitating economic growth; and attracting and attaining working families. The town board is also currently working on new goals for 2009.
Town of Estes Park Administrator Jacqueline Halburnt introduced the organization of our local government, with the top authority identified as Estes Park citizens. Town Administrator Halburnt, the Town Attorney and the Municipal Judge report directly to the Mayor and Trustees. Halburnt is responsible for the efficient administration of all town departments. She exercises supervision over the Utility, Public Works, Police, Community Service Departments, and Town Clerk’s Office; and, Deputy Town Administrator Lowell Richardson supervises the Museum, the Senior Center, Finance and Fire Departments.
Halburnt explained the Town’s general fund is funded mostly with sales tax (75%), with only 3% of the budget coming from property taxes. Expenses for the general fund are 55% for personnel, with 39% spent on operations and maintenance, and 6% on capital improvements.
The Town of Estes Park General Fund has zero debt, and has adopted a financially conservative budget for 2009. Unlike most resort towns in Colorado who experienced significant decrease in revenue from sales tax, the Town of Estes Park’s 2008 revenue came in relatively flat when compared to what was generated in 2007; in response, the budget set for 2009 is “flat” as well.
Halburnt explained some of this year’s budget more specifically, including the installation of a small wind and solar research site, the continuation of the shopper shuttle program for the summer, and covering all utility buildings with offset renewable energy.
Town Clerk Jackie Williamson explained the many hats worn in the Clerk’s office, including issuing business and liquor licenses; record-keeping including board minutes, ordinances, deeds, and easements; and serving as the municipal election official.
CIA participants were asked to take a preliminary quiz; another one will be given at the end of the eight-week class to track the acquisition of knowledge. Everyone was given a reading assignment: the preface and first few chapters of Reinventing Government by Osborne & Gaebler, and asked to attend at least one board meeting before March 4.
The class wrapped up with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Estes Park Museum, conducted by Derek Fortini, the Curator of Collections and Exhibits, who explained some of the changes to the permanent exhibits and the newest exhibit, “Quilts,” which will run until January, 2010.
This is the sixth Citizens Information Academy facilitated by Betty Kilsdonk, director of the Museum and the Senior Center. The goal of the CIA is to explain our local government and services, introduce staff and programs, and to identify mechanisms available to Estes Park citizens to have issues heard and resolved.
“We are a transparent organization,” said Halburnt, “and we welcome this opportunity to educate all of you in the inner-workings of Town government.”