Election 2021: Idaho Springs candidates discuss housing, parking during virtual forum

Corinne Westeman
cwesteman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/21/21

Tourists and the sales tax revenue they generate, downtown parking, housing, and community volunteerism were among the topics discussed at the Idaho Springs Chamber of Commerce's Oct. 20 virtual …

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Election 2021: Idaho Springs candidates discuss housing, parking during virtual forum

Posted

Tourists and the sales tax revenue they generate, downtown parking, housing, and community volunteerism were among the topics discussed at the Idaho Springs Chamber of Commerce's Oct. 20 virtual candidate forum.

The participants were mayoral candidates Chuck Harmon and Mike Kowalewski; unopposed City Council candidates Kate Collier and Scott Pennell; and clerk and treasurer candidates Phyllis Adams and Diane Breece.

For both the mayoral candidates, residents' quality of life is a point of focus.

Kowalewski ultimately felt that the city needs more families.

Attracting more people, especially with school-age children, could solve a lot of problems in the community, such as the school district's declining attendance and a lack of service industry employees. Thus, Idaho Springs needs to be more family oriented, Kowalewski stated.

“The best thing about this community is the people who live in it,” he said.

He added that the city has always struggled in terms of size and funds, but it's been able to overcome that thanks to residents' teamwork, volunteerism and generosity.

“With that,” he continued, “we'll solve most of the problems that need to be solved.”

Harmon said he also wants to focus on improving the city's infrastructure, he described. Regarding funding, Harmon said staff members Andy Marsh and Jonathan Cain have been excellent grant-writers for Idaho Springs. Over the past few years, he said, “They're responsible for our city receiving about $8 million in grants.”

He believed their grant-writing skills will be necessary for upcoming projects, especially as the federal government passes a major infrastructure bill.

Another of Harmon's focuses as mayor, he detailed, would be downtown traffic, including creating a parking structure. He recommended the city host more events during slower days and months to generate visitors and keep a more consistent flow of traffic.

City Council candidates Collier and Pennell, both of whom have previous experience serving on council, also emphasized the necessity of tourists and the sales tax revenues they generate. However, they also acknowledged tourism's impacts on locals.

Pennell said that, while packed thoroughfares and parking lots on weekends can be frustrating, “That's how we pay for things.”

Collier felt that, although there might not be a way to control how many tourists pass through the town or when, it's important to protect residents' parking and neighborhoods.

Pennell likewise emphasized the need for parking management, saying the paid parking system seems to be effective at keeping visitors moving through downtown and protecting downtown residents' parking.

Both also mentioned housing as a major issue, saying the city needs to work with the county and entities like Habitat for Humanity to create projects for people of all incomes.

“Housing has moved to the front of many conversations we're having,” Collier continued.

Clerk and treasurer candidates

Now that the city has modified its elected clerk position, giving most of the duties to a hired deputy city clerk, the elected office will only require a few hours' work a week, candidates Phyllis Adams and Diane Breece said.

The elected treasurer's office likewise has very few responsibilities, as a city staff member fulfills most of its duties, they clarified.

Breece currently holds both the clerk and treasurer offices, and Adams has held various positions with the city previously.

Adams said if the clerk's duties hadn't been changed recently, she wouldn't be running. While both she and Breece are qualified, Adams said she saw an opportunity to serve her community and fulfill a much-needed role at City Hall.

“I will do the job but not overstep,” Adams said, adding that the clerk office will be her focus. “Elected or not, I will still care about Idaho Springs and what happens here, because this is my home.”

Breece, who's worked at the city for 21 years, said she intended to retire at the end of this year's term. However, when the city changed the clerk's duties, she reconsidered.

“This will be a part-time position,” she said of the elected clerk's role. “I can foresee one to five hours a week. … I've enjoyed working as a city clerk and city treasurer. … There's never a dull moment at City Hall.”

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