Candidates for Dillon Town Council discuss priorities at forum |

Candidates for Dillon Town Council discuss priorities at forum

Dillon Town Council candidates, from left, Jen Barchers, Mark Cribbet, Dana Christiansen, Renee Imamura and Tony Scalise, as well as mayoral candidate Carolyn Skowyra, sit in Dillon Town Hall during a candidate forum Tuesday, March 8. The forum featured questions from Krystal 93 and audience members.
Jefferson Geiger/Summit Daily News

All of the candidates running for election in Dillon were at Town Hall Tuesday night, March 8, to speak about their goals for public office. The forum was moderated by Phil Lindeman of radio station Krystal 93, featuring questions from him and members of the audience.

The event began with candidates each introducing themselves. Running unopposed for mayor is incumbent Carolyn Skowyra. Skowyra has served on Town Council for the past six years and is up for her second term. She is the head coach of the Tsunami Swim Club and has lived in Summit County for 12 years.

There are five candidates running for the three Town Council seats. Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate associate broker Renee Imamura and Colorado Mountain College associate professor of humanities and social sciences Jen Barchers are both incumbents. Imamura has lived in Summit for 18 years while Barchers has spent 15 years in the county.

Other council candidates are Dana Christiansen, Mark Cribbet and Tony Scalise. Christiansen is a retired aerospace engineer who has lived in Summit for 15 years. Cribbet is an attorney at the law offices of David A. Helmer and has lived in Summit for three years. Scalise is retired and has lived in the county full time for two years.

Question 1: What do you believe is the role of local government?

When asked by Lindeman, all candidates had virtually the same response, saying that the role is to represent the town and do the best for the community.

“We often hear from the loudest voices, but … it’s my job to represent the voices that aren’t being heard … so we can represent the town fully and not just parts,” Barchers said.

Question 2: How do you balance visitors and local community?

This question was submitted by town staff, which Cribbet said he found interesting. He said he wants to make sure staff are happy and their voices are heard even if they aren’t Dillon residents. Barchers said the town is good at compromising and that there is room for everybody.

Christiansen said that the town should look at an excise tax similar to what Frisco has on the ballot so visitors can help contribute to the community via fees and taxes. Imamura added that Dillon relies on visitors for economic development, and Skowyra said that residents provide the town with character that visitors are looking for and that striking a balance can be difficult as people don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

Scalise said that local opinion should be weighted above visitors.

“I don’t believe in overweighting the tourist people over the townspeople,” he said. “Certain things you can do may not make the tourists happy, but they’re going to come no matter what.”

Question 3: Was Ice Castles successful and would you like to see a similar event in the future?

Skowyra said the Ice Castles were a success according to the businesses that she talked to. Cribbet also called it a success, adding that opinions will naturally differ between someone living in the town core and someone elsewhere.

Imamura called it a success as well, yet she mentioned it was an issue where residents convinced her that it shouldn’t return. Rather, she would like other events to draw in the crowd like the recent pond hockey tournaments.

“Utilizing areas outside of Town Park, I think, is a much better destination for something like that,” Imamura said.

Scalise said that it could have been a larger success by the town setting a split with the company to earn revenues beyond sales tax. Christiansen seconded that the town could have made more money and said it wasn’t successful.

Barchers said that hindsight is 20/20 and that not every council or project is perfect but added that it allowed them to become more of a winter destination and experiment with ideas.

Audience questions

Two audience questions were then posed to the group. The first asked for comment on the council decision to allow marijuana stores to sell their products through walk-up or drive-up windows. Skowyra gave background on the subject, explaining that the council decision was a business, safety and code issue so the dispensaries could operate during a pandemic no differently than a liquor store or restaurant delivering items to one’s car.

“You do sometimes hear many voices saying the same thing on one issue, but we’re all challenged to look at the larger picture and we have to look at what’s best for the town, what’s best for the community as a whole, what’s best for the businesses in our community,” Skowyra said.

Barchers reiterated that she voted yes on the issue for similar reasons.

Scalise echoed his earlier remarks and said that the constituency’s opinion — which he said opposed the decision in past meetings — should have the more weight in decision making.

Christiansen agreed, and said that Town Council going against public comment is a primary reason why he is running.

“If everybody is against it, you can’t vote for it,” Christiansen said.

Imamura added that she voted against the decision because of community feedback. Cribbett said he has no opposition to the issue and disagreed with the sentiments that the entire community did, as he said it was just a vocal segment.

The other audience question asked for ideas to invigorate the town core and execute the master plan. Cribbett said the town should prioritize what of the plan to implement.

“Right now, the town itself and council has been hamstrung by the fact that we are seeing heavy inflation and a lack of skilled labor to actually do a lot of these projects,” he said.

Imamura mentioned forming an economic development committee, and Scalise said he wants the town to become closer-knit. Christiansen said the town should look at eminent domain on the Payne Building so that the master plan could move forward. Barchers and Skowyra said they would peruse options besides eminent domain and that the plan is now in the works because fundamental pieces like building density have occurred.

Ballots will be mailed to registered voters the week of March 14, and they must be received by the town clerk’s office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, April 5.

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