Hayden seeks charter feedback

Commission members want to hear from residents

If you go

What: Home rule charter hearing

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Hayden Town Hall, 178 W. Jefferson Ave.

More information: Read the draft of the charter at www.townofhayden.org or at www.steamboatpilo...>

Hayden residents have a chance to speak up about the town's future at a hearing Wednesday.

Hayden's Home Rule Charter Commission has scheduled a public hearing about the draft of the Home Rule Charter. The document is far from finalized, officials said, and they encouraged residents to voice any concerns Wednesday.

One possible snag is that the draft includes a change from a publicly elected mayor to a council president elected from within the Town Council. Three people have raised issues with Commission Vice Chairman Bill Irvine, he said.

"I've changed my mind because of talking to the people," Irvine said. "And the Home Rule Charter to me is very important, and I believe that if, in fact, we can have a negative response having a president on the board and not a mayor, I certainly am going for the mayor."

The position of mayor largely is ceremonial, Town Manager Russ Martin said. But if people want to keep an elected mayor, they should come to the meeting and make that known.

"There's so many more important things in that Home Rule Charter that I think a majority of people will appreciate and will want," Martin said. "To have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water, well, let's talk about the baby so we don't do that. If that's the thing that's going to make you vote yea or nay on this thing, show up on the 27th; voice your opinion. : You can make a change in it. This is not anywhere close to being done."

Martin noted that the Hayden School Board chooses its president from its ranks. The Steamboat Springs City Council does the same.

Richard "Festus" Hagins, a town trustee and Charter Commission member, said he was flexible on the issue. As a trustee, he sees a benefit to council members' choosing a president.

"I feel that the board could take a position where they could choose someone who had experience or experience in running meetings and get things running smoothly," Hagins said. "Because if you have someone who doesn't know how to run a meeting well, it could run on for hours."

Martin noted that a Home Rule Charter would be about far more than the structure of a council. It would allow the town of Hayden to expand its tax base - "do surgery" on its tax policy. The town currently can only make changes to its overall sales tax.

A Home Rule Charter would allow it to expand on that, possibly taxing car rentals or Yampa Valley Regional Airport passengers. That could lessen the burden on Hayden residents, Martin said.

"We're not taking advantage of possibilities at the airport like other cities have," Hagins said.

All taxing decisions still would be up to Hayden voters.

A charter also would allow the town to reject some state statutes, Martin said.

"If for no other reason, I hope people approve a Home Rule Charter because, by golly, we should have the power to determine our destiny and not be subject to yearly fluctuations that happen in Denver," Martin said. "And that is the real benefit."

The charter also would allow flexibility in posting proposed ordinances. The town currently has to publish them in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Sundays. That might not be the best way to do it, Martin said. The town would like to post them at the post office and online, for example.

If approved as it is in draft form, the charter would:

- Increase term limits from two to three for elected officials. The three-term limit would apply no matter the length of the term.

- Change the Town Board to the Town Council.

- Create a council that includes seven at-large members. Of those elected, the person who receives the fewest votes would get a two-year term. The rest would serve four-year terms.

- Add a council president, who would be elected by the council members to a two-year term. That role wouldn't change the length of his or her term on the council.

- Add a first reading and second reading for ordinances up for approval by the Town Council. That gives residents the opportunity to learn about ordinances and comment on them, Martin said.

- Require the town manager to get approval from the Council for new hires.

Martin and the commission members encouraged residents to participate. If the charter is approved, no one but the electorate can alter it.

"The Town Council cannot change the charter at all without a vote of the people," Martin said.

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