Dillon, S’thorne explore synergy | SummitDaily.com

Dillon, S’thorne explore synergy

SUMMIT COUNTY – In what some participants are calling an unprecedented and historic meeting in the world of local politics, the Silverthorne and Dillon town councils met for a work session May 27 to discuss avenues of possible cooperation between the two towns.

“This was the first time we’d gotten together,” Dillon Mayor Barbara Davis said. “We didn’t really even know each other.”

Davis said the purpose of the meeting was to “explore areas of mutual interest” with a bottom line of “improving services to our constituents and cutting costs.”

“Sharing a common border, we share a lot of common interests,” Silverthorne Councilmember Peggy Long said.

A common border has not always lead to the most amicable of relationships, however. For years, the two bodies have operated under what one Dillon council member called a “cloud of mistrust” that has stemmed from issues ranging from the City Market relocation to shared police duties.

Dillon Councilmember Mike Smith said one central purpose of the meeting was to “get rid of some of the animosity that has existed in the past.”

“We all look forward to coming up with areas where we can work in a cooperative effort,” he said.

“Dillon doesn’t want to do anything if it doesn’t make any sense financially or operationally for Silverthorne,” Davis said. “We want to make it a win-win situation. We’re not going to push issues where someone has a lot to lose.”

Among the issues discussed were further cooperation between the two law enforcement agencies of the towns, co-management of the Blue River baseball fields, and a joint marketing effort.

“The one that has the most potential is the joint marketing effort,” Silverthorne Town Manager Kevin Batchelder said. “It’s an area where maybe we could avoid some duplication.”

Batchelder characterized the effort as a revenue-sharing project to pay for the marketing and promotion of what he characterized as “one shopping district instead of two distinct towns.”

The project is far from finalized, however, and officials said it would take a considerable amount of further negotiation before anything concrete was initiated.

“It has to make sense for both towns before we take that final step toward implementation,” Batchelder said.

To continue that effort, both Batchelder and Dillon Town Manager Jack Benson have been charged with continuing meetings to flesh out the details of such an arrangement in addition to identifying further instances where cooperation could benefit both municipalities.

“We want to start with some (ideas) that are relatively easy to tackle, and success can breed upon itself at that point,” Batchelder said. “Taxpayers are looking for governments to be smarter and more efficient, and I think we’re taking steps in that direction, hopefully for the benefit of both towns.”

Not everyone seems overly enthusiastic. Long said the issue of police cooperation is “kind of a real contentious point.” At the Dillon Town Council’s meeting Tuesday, one council member said the meeting of the two bodies had occurred under an atmosphere of suspicion. Another noted that participants had been “leery” because of past relationships.

Still, other members were quick to interject that they felt the experience had been quite positive and were disappointed only when the two governments agreed to meet just twice a year.

Silverthorne’s Long, who agreed the atmosphere was generally encouraging, said many of the issues that arose and may arise in the future centered on issues of control.

“People get very possessive of their communities,” she said. “They don’t want to give up what they’ve got, and they don’t want somebody else telling them how (they’re) going to put (their) pants on in the morning.”

This seemed to reflect the general view that despite encouraging signs of cooperation, joining the two towns once and for all was not anywhere on the visible horizon.

“That’s not even in the realm of reality at the moment,” Smith said, although he added his thought that “someday it would be a very good thing to do.”

“You crawl before you walk, and you walk before you run. And we have to start crawling.”

“It’s something that would take years,” Long said. “As our population grows, it might become more and more possible. But it’s a real touchy subject.”

Batchelder pointed to significant “political and cultural areas” that would need to be addressed before any such proposal could even be considered.

“I think that what we’re looking at right now is cooperation instead of consolidation,” he said.

Davis, who agreed that such a concept lies in the very distant future, if it will come to fruition at all, nevertheless said that the reasons for reticence are worth addressing to encourage beneficial cooperation now. She pointed to a history of “bad blood” between certain town departments as one initial obstacle to tackle.

“I don’t care about the history,” Davis said. “I think it’s time to move on from this day forward and establish a whole new working relationship and let bygones be bygones.”

Long agreed but appeared more patient.

“We had lasagna together,” she said of the meeting. “That was a good start.”

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at aleonard@summitdaily.com.

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