By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s Board of Trustees decided on June 27 that they will appoint a replacement for outgoing Trustee Katrina Byars, rather than hold a special election.
Among other effects, that means local voters next spring will be electing four trustees — including seats for three who will have been recently appointed — and a mayor. Trustee Frosty Merriott will be stepping down because of term limits, putting his seat up for election as well.
Byars has resigned because she has been unable to secure affordable housing in Carbondale and is having to move to Glenwood Springs, where her children already are living. Town regulations require that a trustee live within Carbondale’s municipal boundaries. She also recently was laid off from her job as manager for the Dandelion Market food co-op store on Main Street.
Mayor Dan Richardson paused the Tuesday night meeting to give board members an opportunity to thank Byars for her service.
Speaking first, Richardson said he was “saddened” by her resignation and praised her “passion” about many issues, ranging from her very public participation in events at recent Carbondale Mountain Fair celebrations, her work on the town’s Climate Action Plan and on issues related to oil and gas development in Garfield County and around the state.
Trustee Erica Sparhawk praised Byars for her work on energy-efficiency issues and for “always standing up for the little guy” during debates about housing and other matters affecting the town’s low-income population.
Trustees Heather Henry and Marty Silverstein concurred, and Henry told Byars, “Your voice has been both the gentlest and the loudest, at the same time,” in speaking for the needs of the town’s less fortunate residents.
Several trustees lauded Byars for her hard work as liaison to several other agencies and boards in the region and around the state, and Trustee Frosty Merriott, who has had public disagreements with Byars about some issues, thanked her for her work to keep drilling rigs out of the Thompson Divide, a community-wide effort that has embroiled the town in energy-related politics on state, regional and national levels.
Richardson presented Byars with an illustration of the iconic massif to the south of town, Mt. Sopris, and a card thanking her for her service.
To replace Byars, Richardson told the trustees, there are a couple of options available under town election rules — appointing a replacement within 60 days of Byars’ departure (which was to be formalized by a letter of resignation on June 28), or holding a special election within 180 days (which would be costly and, the trustees felt, impractical since any special election would be held close to the date of the regularly scheduled 2018 municipal election).
Some had reservations about the tight schedule for appointing a new trustee by the end of August. Trustee Heather Henry, in particular, worried that a two-week application period might not be sufficient for getting the word out and attracting the best candidates for the post.
And while the exact cost of a special election was never stated, the trustees seemed to agree that it would be an unnecessary expense at a time when the town’s budget already is tight.
According to Town Clerk Cathy Derby, advertisements seeking applications for Byars’ position can’t get into The Sopris Sun until the July 6 edition.
She suggested to the trustees that the application deadline ought to be set for July 21 in order to get the applications to the trustees by July 25, hold interviews on Aug. 8 and, if necessary continue them on Aug. 22, and then name a replacement at the Aug. 22 regular meeting.
Under town codes, she said, a new trustee must be appointed no later than Aug. 27.
Derby added that an announcement of the application process will be on the town website (www.carbondaldgov.org), and other announcements in The Sopris Sun and on Carbondale’s community access radio station, KDNK, will mean the effective period of advertising for applicants will be longer than the two weeks from July 6 through July 21.
General agreement among the trustees was summed up by Merriott, who declared, “This is what we should do. We shouldn’t be having an election.”
A motion by Trustee Marty Silverstein, seconded by Trustee Heather Henry, calls for applications to be in by July 21 for the trustees’ consideration.