16 March 2011: Georgetown nearing fork in the road

Georgetown nearing fork in the road

As the Ride the Rockies race is poised to ride into Georgetown in June, a far more consequential event will be taking place much sooner when citizens choose a new mayor/police judge and replace three selectmen, potentially four if Matt Skeen defeats Kerry Ann McHugh in the mayoralty contest.

With a new mayor and fresh blood on the Board of Selectmen, Georgetown is nearing a fork in the road, a potential tectonic shift depending on the tine it takes on April 4, which will determine the town’s course for years to come.

Reading the article about the bike race in last week’s Courant, I was struck more not by what was literally said but what was being said by not being said.

Tour director Chandler Smith made clear that it wasn’t exactly what Georgetown offers that caused officials to select it as the final destination, but its “location relative to other towns” and “its charm and proximity to I-70 and the Front Range.”

Communities hosting the conclusion of the Ride the Rockies usually net some quarter of a million dollars, but there’s not likely to be such a windfall for Georgetown because, as Smith notes, “you just don’t have that lodging component.” His statement is closer to a two-star endorsement about the town’s amenities although he throws it a bone by saying “but they’ll certainly get hit hard with the retail and (restaurants.).” (Note restaurants in parentheses.)

So, the riders and greeters will role into town, swill a beer, and skedaddle.

“It (the race) will show off what we have,” outgoing mayor Tom Bennhoff told the Courant. True, but it will also expose what the town does not have, and the still-empty iconic Red Ram, which for generations served as a draw, the go-to bar and grill for I-70 travelers, boarded and shuttered, a haunted shell of its old self, serves as evidence of a town on life support.

And that’s unfortunate because had there been a growth vision in lieu of the historical preservationist doll-house model over the past decade, the businesses of the town would be poised to reap $250,000 in one day with corresponding swells for the town’s coffers

The outcome of the race between Skeen and McHugh will have consequences for policy but it’s symbolic as well. Skeen’s legacy is inseparable from his roles as attorney and longtime officer at Historical Georgetown, Inc. As such, he is the face of the Old Guard.

McHugh, on the other hand, is of a younger generation. She, along with husband Jeff, is proprietor of the popular eatery Ed’s Café, which has become the de facto town hangout with the demise of the Red Ram. Being a business owner is telling as well in that the primary issue confronting the town is the economy, reminding one of Bill Clinton’s aphorism: It’s the economy, stupid!

Long before the dismal national economic scene unfolded, Georgetown’s plight was etched. It takes no Warren Buffet to see economic growth demands more sustenance than a two-week Christmas Market and an occasional guided tour through Hamill House.

Besides the town’s economic future, other issues percolate.

While the town debates water and wastewater rates and town crews spread recycled asphalt over ruts and potholes in Wards II and III roads, tens of thousands of dollars were allotted to a sidewalk with flagstone in the front of one Rose St. house and to legal fees in an attempt to deny one landowner his right to access his property. The town gambled with taxpayer dollars and lost. The question needing answered: Why?

As Ward I selectman and mayor pro tem, Matt Skeen has played a critical and pivotal role over the past few years with his votes on those issues and sundry others. Accordingly, like any incumbent politician, he has a record to defend or to tout.

Given her role on the Planning Commission and years of community involvement, Kerry Ann McHugh has in turn her own record to defend or tout, albeit on a far smaller scale.

Both have or at least should have a vision they need to present to the voters about the direction of the town will take under their tutelage.

Both will have that opportunity this Saturday when they along with all the selectmen candidates have been invited to make their cases on our community radio station, KYGT, from 3:00 to 4:30.

The show will be repeated twice through the week, Monday at 2:00 and Thursday at 3:00, and will be uploaded to the radio’s website at www.kygt.org.

Yogi Berra once quipped that when you get to a fork in the road, take it. What is generally not known is that when he said that he was actually talking to Georgetown.

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