Opinion | Keystone Incorporation Committee: Becoming a town brings benefits
Charter commission candidate
The Keystone Community is at an inflection point. We can continue on our current path in unincorporated Summit County and nothing will change, or we can take control of our future and address and fix the issues Keystone faces.
For the past 12 years, Keystone community leaders have been working with the Summit County Board of County Commissioners and Colorado Department of Transportation to address U.S. Highway 6’s critical life safety issues impacting our community. Residents’ and visitors’ lives are at risk because they are forced to walk along Highway 6 with hazmat trucks speeding by with little traffic enforcement and no easily accessible safe way to cross the highway. In the past 10 years, there have been two pedestrian deaths on Highway 6 in Keystone.
Keystone growth is approved by the the county without considering impacts on the community. They promise traffic studies publicly and don’t deliver. Keystone has open space and trails which are deteriorating by neglect. The county hasn’t addressed the infrastructure issues.
Land for a child care facility in Keystone workforce housing has been identified for over 25 years while the county builds facilities elsewhere. As a planned unit development, Keystone developers are required to provide beds dedicated for Keystone’s workforce. While Vail Resorts denied housing for their Keystone visa workers, the county allowed Breckenridge employees in Keystone’s employee housing, ignoring Keystone’s needs.
The Keystone Citizens League commissioned a feasibility study to determine if Keystone could incorporate without raising taxes. The budget estimates and town organization structure were driven by an analysis of towns in Summit County and northwest Colorado. Best practices used by towns such as Silverthorne, Blue River, Dillon and Minturn were applied to produce a lean and cost-efficient government structure. Cost estimates were based on actual town budgets, adjusted for Keystone’s unique requirements. The result shows that Keystone can incorporate without raising taxes, increase levels of service the community receives today and produce an annual general fund surplus. The surplus will be used to address Keystone’s most pressing needs. We coordinated the feasibility study with the county, sheriff, county manager and county staff. We incorporated every cost change they recommended.
The county hired a consultant to review the incorporation feasibility study. We offered assistance to answer any of the consultant’s questions. We were rebuffed. When the consultant’s review was completed, we identified double counting of costs, as well as unrealistic costs such as $1.7 million for town signage in the first two years, but our comments weren’t considered. Last month, the county finance director updated the consultant’s study, comparing it against the first draft of the incorporation feasibility study, even though the county had a later version which included all county and staff recommendations. The final feasibility study has been posted on IncorporateKeystone.com since August. The county and finance director were made aware of this error in advance of the work session and chose to present the flawed results. We were denied the opportunity for comment. We offered assistance and were again turned down.
A March 16 Summit Daily article indicated that the county now projects that at the end of five years, the town of Keystone would have a General Fund surplus of $2.5 million. This hardly looks like financial difficulty. In addition, there would be $4.5 million in a workforce housing fund, and $2.5 million in a capital fund.
If even the county projections show Keystone would have a surplus after five years, why wouldn’t we incorporate? Why wouldn’t we want the citizens of Keystone to decide on what priorities to spend the tax revenues we generate, instead of letting three county commissioners decide how and where to spend it? Why wouldn’t we want the citizens of Keystone to control the zoning requirements of new development, instead of letting three county commissioners decide what is best for Keystone? Why wouldn’t we want a town council and town staff who are entirely focused on the needs of Keystone, instead of three county commissioners who focus on Keystone only when they can find some time? Regardless of whose projections are more accurate, Keystone incorporation is the right decision for the future of the Keystone community.
There will be challenges. We are identifying those and taking steps to minimize their impact. As Keystone incorporates, we look forward to working with Summit County, Vail Resorts and neighboring towns to find creative solutions to the challenges and partnering with them on issues that impact everyone living in Summit County.
Tim Huiting is a member of the Keystone Incorporation Committee, president of the Keystone Owners Association and candidate for the charter commission, a nine-person committee tasked with writing the guiding document for the town.
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