Public forum for Palisade trustee candidates drew 60 to 70 people

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Responding to audience questions, the eight Palisade town trustee candidates at the March 10 public forum talked about revitalizing downtown, balancing growth and preserving the small town feel, retention of volunteer fire fighter staff and first responders, festivals and tourism, improvements for handicapped and senior citizens, safe sidewalks and roads, and ways to hear concerns from businesses and residents outside Palisade.

There were moments of humor in the two hour question and answer meeting along with some tough questions. There are four openings on the seven-member town board.

The forum was held to allow residents to ask questions of the candidates to help make decisions in voting for the April 3 municipal election. Sixty to 70 people attended the meeting. Ballots for the April 3 election will be mailed Monday March 12.

The forum was sponsored by the Palisade Chamber of Commerce and held at the Community Center. The forum was moderated by C. J. Rhyne of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. Rhyne grew up in Palisade.

Participating in the forum were candidates Jessica Bonds, 34; Dustyn Cipperly, 41; Eric Croy, 47; Alice Dussart, 40; trustee and candidate Susan L’Hommedieu, 66; Jesse Loughman, 40; Greg Mikolai, 56; and Andrew West, 28. Candidate Jamie Somerville was unable to attend. Gary Miller withdrew his candidacy earlier.

In opening statements, candidates talked about their love for Palisade, their volunteer activities, their interest in providing a younger voice on the board, and their interests such as outdoor activities and staying involved in town meetings.

Jesse Loughman said it is important for a local business owner to be on the board. He is co-owner of the medical marijuana dispensary and a retail store in Palisade. He said those businesses generate 73 percent of the municipal tax revenue and that he would like to have some say in how it is spent.

Greg Mikolai said he will bring his experience and lessons learned from his eight years on the School District 51 board to the town board.

Dustyn Cipperly said she would focus on pedestrian safety in town. “Safety is a really big issue,” as a mom of two children, she said. She also said she favors smart growth while keeping a small town feel.

Responding to 12 written questions from the audience, candidates said the top issues to focus on include the town infrastructure, specifically plans to build a new waste water treatment plant.

Alice Dussart said she is interested to hear voices from the surrounding agricultural economy, and also suggested the town consider a home rule form of government.

Responding to a question about the impact of the development of the Cameo Sports Shooting Range and the Palisade Plunge bike trail, Andrew West pointed out that the Palisade Fire Department personnel will respond to emergency calls so planning is needed.

Trustee Susan L’Hommedieu also commented about tourism, “We need to get the bikers off the mountain and into our town.”

Candidates said they enjoy the festivals in town, the festivals provide tourism dollars, and they are a way to build the community.

Cipperly suggested that shuttle buses should run not only during festivals, but “it would be great” to see something permanent, perhaps on weekends.

Jessica Bonds, who is chair of the Palisade Tourism Advisory Board, noted that events have increased to include Olde Fashion Christmas, the Honey Bee festival, and Brews and Cruise. She said families who visit say, “I’m going to live there.”

Andrew West said festivals are good economically for the town, but noted, perhaps ironically, “You will be tired of people at the end of the day,” and that, “I want to be sure Palisade is not a party town.”

Asked about the biggest challenge for Palisade in the area of law enforcement, Eric Croy said street crossings and improving streets are important.

Jesse Loughman said Palisade has really good first responders and law enforcement, but raised concern about providing around-the-clock coverage. “What can we afford?” he asked. He said perhaps a little more financing would be needed to provide coverage.

Dustyn Cipperly said her husband volunteers and that staff availability is a big issue. She also raised a question about transportation to prevent drunken people from driving.

An audience question asked about the candidates’ vision for the economy and business development. Greg Mikolai said a balance is important between growth and the character of the town. “We need to have growth to be able to care for the town.”

Susan L’Hommedieu suggested that in addition to the large projects in process, light industrial development would provide local jobs.

As for the question of planning and funding a new waste water treatment plant, candidates generally said they would rely on expert advice. L’Hommedieu acknowledged that it is a huge project. In responding to comments about a proposal several years ago to pipe waste water to the plant in Clifton, she drew laughter when she quipped, “We need to deal with our own crap.”

Greg Mikolai said one question is should the town deal with building a new plant now or in seven to eight years, when costs would be greater. He said funding might be possible through a certificate of participation or a bond issue.

Asked about the town following the master plan or responding to a “not in my backyard mentality,” Eric Croy said, “It is really important to set standards for yourself and the town. You follow that plan. Things can change it,” but follow the plan.

Jesse Loughman said there is a process for changing regulations. He said if the town didn’t make changes, it wouldn’t have developments such as the Wine Country Inn, and others.

Alice Dussart said, “The master plan is our plan forward. We are a democracy.” However, she acknowledged she has a bit of a bias. “Citizen voices should outweigh incoming businesses.”

In responding to a question alleging that $300,000 in salaries are paid to non-Palisade resident staff or department heads, the candidates said hiring the best talent is more important than a residency requirement.

Dustyn Cipperly suggested that in the future, the town might consider offering an incentive to staff to move to Palisade.

An election brochure with profiles provided by each candidate is available at Town Hall, 175 E. 3rd St.

Ballots will be mailed Monday, March 12. They are due by election day, Tuesday April 3. If there are questions, contact Town Hall, 970 464-5602.