Breck candidates make introductions
BRECKENRIDGE – Eight of the nine Breckenridge Town Council candidates got their first opportunity to introduce themselves to the public at a resort chamber breakfast Thursday morning.
The need to create economic sustainability as a precursor to quality of life issues was a shared one.
The eight were Mary Augustyn, a mental health counselor; Rob Millisor, partner with Grand Timber Lodge; Eric Mamula, owner of Downstairs at Eric’s; planning commissioner Ron Schuman; software engineer Dave Cook; incumbent Councilmember Jim Lamb, real estate broker Carol Rockne and radio and TV personality Jeffrey Bergeron. Chris Kulick, manager at Great Adventure Sports, did not attend.
The one mayoral candidate, Ernie Blake, had a scheduling conflict.
Based on questions posed to the candidates, the biggest issue facing Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC) members is economic stability in town – an issue that touches on almost every other issue the town faces.
Those include affordable housing, child care, getting more destination visitors to town, maintaining a good quality of life and developing a water storage facility.
Augustyn said she plans to vitalize Breckenridge’s economy by bringing locals and businesses together to attract more visitors to town.
“Government forgets that it’s about the people,” she said. “It’s about small-business owners, it’s about the residents, the tourists. Yes, it’s about the corporations, but it’s really about the people.”
Millisor, a 17-year resident, said he supports affordable housing to keep employees here, enhance the recreational and cultural opportunities and continue partnerships between the town and ski area.
He also addressed the need to boost destination visitors.
Mamula said the community will never be sustainable if there isn’t affordable housing for employees.
“We can’t have a community like this and make our employees drive over the pass every day,” he said. “The key is to create small communities within the community so everyone wants to buy into it.”
Bergeron, who said he would serve as the blue collar representative on the council, said he believes the “vertical integration” of the ski area into town is “the kiss of death,” and that he would fight as hard as he can to maintain local vitality.
“We have to get along,” he said, “but we also have to assert our needs.”
He also thinks the town needs more flexibility to do things under the spirit, not the letter of, the law. He cited an incident in which a store owner was cited for featuring an acoustical guitar player on their property “while Sodom and Gomorra in leiderhosen” was sanctioned down the street during Oktoberfest.
“We need business owners who think outside the box,” he said. “We need to help them, not hinder them.”
Lamb is running on the momentum of the council on which he has served four years, saying the town needs to continue its work on water storage, mass transit, child care, affordable housing and open space issues.
He believes the town could fare better if it were marketed more efficiently, as well.
“We need to market to people who we haven’t marketed to in the past,” he said.
“I think the money the town gives the BRC is sufficient for what it needs to do. It should be spent more wisely – try new markets, figure out the winter-summer (ad dollar spending ratio) and challenge the BRC to be innovative. If that focus is there, we’ll be OK.”
Millisor, who sits on the BRC board, disagreed, saying the BRC does a great job with the money it has – but needs more of it.
Schuman suggested the town spend more of its marketing money on the Front Range – the “sure-fire” visitors – and determine if the town has the infrastructure to accommodate international guests.
Lamb suggested the BRC consider marketing its smoke-free status, which goes into effect June 1.
Mamula also suggested the town consider changing its business tax schedule by combining it into BRC membership to beef up the strength of the BRC.
Rockne said one way to keep visitors returning would be to revitalize downtown, which the council has begun to undertake by moving Highway 9 to Park Avenue, thus giving the control of Main Street to the town.
A public forum featuring the candidates is slated for 7 p.m. March 22 at the Breckenridge Town Hall.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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