17 June 2015: Balancing county’s needs with less money

Balancing county’s needs with less money

During my conversation with Clear Creek Economic Corporation Executive Director Peggy Stokstad and Commissioner Tim Mauck on KYGT about post-Henderson Clear Creek, I quipped that while the belief the Japanese character for chaos is the same for opportunity is urban legend, it remains a wonderful idea.

On the one hand, both Stokstad and Mauck aver it’s important to keep in mind the size of the Henderson property tax footprint has not always been gargantuan.  Nevertheless, it is something we need to be concerned about.

“I worry about it 24 hours a day” said Stokstad.  The reason?  “We’re a single economy.”

Saying we’ll feel impacts of closure big time, she went on to give a summary of Henderson’s contributions and generosity to the community with the county turning around the money to the small communities and special districts including the library, recreation, and fire that will take a “significant hit” as that revenue stream dries up.

Further, there’s the human cost of the people employed at the mine, especially those who live in Clear Creek, who will be without jobs.  They spend a large part of their pay checks in the county.

In response to my question about whether we would be able sustain the county government on far less of a tax base, Mauck worried that we’ll have to cut back significantly on capital projects.  One of the complicating factors, he pointed out, is in context of personnel issues.

“There’s far more paperwork involved with sheriff’s office.  Personnel costs continue to rise.”

“Maybe we have a window of 10 years,” said Stokstad.  “It might be less given the nature of the molybdenum market.  So, as a whole we need to be ramping up, rolling out the welcome mat to potential investors and developing partnerships.”

Mauck agreed.  “We have to pay special attention to our partnerships,” he said and went on to enumerate a number: the hotel feasibility study, events center, housing, bottom-up economic plan, developing feasibility broadband, work force housing transportation, and reusing the underutilized  school buildings.

“People who spend the night,” he noted, “spend three times more than on a day trip.”

With regard to the potential for a world-class hotel to be built, the Georgetown lagoon is the top site studies show.

“Two top hotel chains have expressed interest,” Stokstad stated, “and we’re going to be pro-active.

It is my contention tourists too often see Clear Creek as a destination spot only for short-term, seasonal activities and events such as the Georgetown Christmas market and whitewater rafting, While vitally important, they’re not long term such as a ski season.

“We need to change the perception of Clear Creek as primarily a thruway to Summit, Vail, and Winter Park,” I held.

Stokstad expressed she liked the way I emphasized the positive nature of the future in my recent Courant columns, emphasizing opportunity.  She came back to her point about how we need to expand from a single economy to a multi-faceted one, talking about the other opportunity in the renewable energy field from potential to geo-thermal in Empire Junction to wind, solar, and hydroelectric.

While the ideas for opportunity arose in exciting form, nevertheless, the reality that infrastructure needs from transportation to broadband development and the availability of health care.

Mauck talked about the 15-passenger the county will secure later this year and the work that remains to be done to make it operational.  He also spoke about his “gripe” with CDOT after it snubbed the county while mapping out its Bustang’s route.

Why not local rail service here, I asked, envisioning a light rail system encouraging everyone to think big and outside the box.

In addition to being expensive to build, we need to grow the “critical mass” of riders, Mauck said in response.

“But things are changing,” he said.  “Colorado’s population will be 10 million by 2050.”

So is Clear Creek.  Large-scale mining is likely dead, which gives us not only an opportunity to change from a single economy but an impetus.  The clock is ticking.

Clear Creek is blessed in that we can shape our future and make it a “place to be” for young people and families and for entrepreneurial types.  Startups can find fertile ground here with no behemoth corporation sucking out the free market air.

Next week: case for a visionary czarina.
Note: The conversation can be listened to at www.kygt.org.  Click on the News & Talk page

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