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Three seats open on council

Town residents hoping to secure one of three open, at-large seats on the Pagosa Springs Town Council can pick up candidate packets tomorrow from 8-5 p.m. at Town Hall. Those packets will be available throughout February.

According to Town Clerk April Hessman, the packets will include necessary petitions for candidates, as well as information about the town and the various departments within town government. That information will also point candidates to where on the town’s website they can access essential documents, such as the Town Charter and the Land Use and Development Code.

The three at-large seats up for grabs are currently held by Bob Hart, Stan Holt and Shari Pierce. As of press time Wednesday, only Hart had expressed an intention to run to retain his seat, with Holt stating he would not run for reelection and Pierce undecided.

Once candidates pick up their packets, they will need the signatures of 25 registered town voters for their petition. Petitions cannot be circulated prior to Monday, Feb. 13, and only one circulator per candidate petition is allowed.

Candidate petitions are due back at Town Hall by 5 p.m. Friday, March 2, for certification.

According to Nana Bishop, Elections Deputy with Archuleta County, there are 1,072 registered voters in Pagosa Springs. Of those, 409 are considered inactive, with 208 of those designations inactive because of a failure to vote in the last election (November 2011), the rest inactive due to returned mail or other problems.

Bishop said that voters can go to govotecolorado.com to check their current voting status and, if that status shows that the voter is inactive, they can reactivate their eligibility in order to vote in the town election.

Voters can also contact Bishop at 264-8331 to check their status and, if inactive, learn how to reactivate voting eligibility.

Anyone registered to vote in the town (at least 18 years old and residing at least 30 days in the area where they can vote) is eligible to run for a council seat. However, Section 2.7.B of the Town Charter states, “No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be eligible to be elected or appointed to the office of Mayor or Council Member.”

Section 4.4 of the Town Charter states, “All municipal elections shall be nonpartisan. No candidate for any municipal office shall run under a party label of any kind.”

Should only two people announce their intention to run, write-in candidates have until March 13 to notify the Town Clerk that they approve of having their name written in on the ballot for a council seat.

Aside from the three open council seats, voters will also be asked to consider amendments to the Town Charter. As reported in the Jan. 26 edition of The SUN, electors will be asked to consider amending over 30 sections of the Town Charter. On Tuesday night, the Pagosa Springs Town Council whittled down that list (see related article), bundling many proposed amendments into three separate ballot questions.

Although the April 3 election appears to be shaping up as a fairly tame affair, that could be changing, as Hessman reported on Tuesday that an inquiry had been made regarding petition for a recall of the mayor.

According to the Town Charter, anyone interested in launching a recall ballot question must first draw up a petition for recall and then submit the petition to the Town Clerk; samples of a petition for recall are provided by the Town Clerk to show what is legally necessary for the petition.

The petition also requires a brief statement as to why the petitioner seeks a recall of that elected official.

Petition requirements are available at www.michie.com/colorado under the Colorado Revised Statutes section, Article 31-11-106.

Once submitted and approved by the Town Clerk, the petitioner has 60 days to collect the required number of signatures from registers town voters.

Section 5.11.B of the Town Charter states, “The petition shall be signed by at least twenty-five (25) percent of the entire vote cast for all the candidates for the office which is subject to the recall at the last preceding election at which the office was filled by election.”

Since 395 votes were cast in the 2010 mayoral election, 99 signatures would be needed to meet that 25 percent requirement. Separate recall petitions for any of the council district seats (currently held by Darrell Cotton, Kathie Lattin and Don Volger) would require considerably fewer signatures (as those seats were uncontested and few votes were cast), but signatures would have to be specific to voters residing in those districts.

However, anyone hoping to get a recall measure on this year’s April 3 ballot would need to have that petition submitted by March 2, at the latest — and that petition would have to be deemed valid by the Town Clerk.

Nevertheless, not meeting that March 2 deadline for the April 3 election would require another town election. Since petitioners have 60 days to file completed petitions (April 8 from today’s date), a certified petition would lead to a call for a special election.

After submission and certification of the petition, the Town Clerk would bring the matter to council which, in turn, would set the date for a special election, no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days from the petition’s certification.

During the last town election, some voters were mobilized to consider Referendum A, an initiative to reconsider a council decision to scrap a portion of the town’s Land Use and Development Code (LUDC) that regulated big box development. Voting ‘no’ on the referendum would have kept language in the LUDC that regulated big box development, while voting ‘yes’ on the referendum eliminated the section of the LUDC focused on big box development.

Results from that election showed 251 voted ‘yes’ while 135 voted ‘no.’

That election also saw a mayoral race that pitted current Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon against local resident Bill Hudson. Aragon won his reelection with a 274-181 margin.

As stated earlier, Cotton, Lattin and Volger ran unopposed for their district council seats.

jim@pagosasun.com

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