Trustee Patrick Casts Deciding Vote with ‘Dramatic Conflict’
By Sandy Barnes
The Town Board narrowly approved a four-month contract with economic development coordinator Stephanie Salazar of Salazar and Associates at the Tuesday, Sept. 8 meeting.
Salazar will receive $6,500 a month until the end of the year to work with the Berthoud Economic Resource Team and Town staff. According to the agreement, the services she will provide include attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones, developing marketing materials and refining a list BERT deliverables. Salazar previously worked for three months with BERT after being hired last fall on an interim basis.
Trustee Jeff Hindman called the rehiring of Salazar “absolutely critical” for the Town. “The one thing we can do is economic development and business retention” to address the Town’s financial ills, he remarked. Mayor Tom Patterson and Trustee John Bauer and also strongly supported her return and reconnection with BERT.
However, Mayor Pro Tem David Gregg and Trustee Dick Shepard voted against rehiring Salazar because of concerns about the Town’s marginal budget. Gregg pointed to reduced sales tax revenues, which are down 15 percent, and additional expenses the Town is facing to hire a new Town administrator. “We’re talking about too much unknown for me,” Gregg said.
“I am also very worried about the budget,” said Shepard. “I would hate around November and December to go into other departments and furlough people.” Shepard told Salazar that his decision was not about her, or the economic development position. “It’s about the money,” he said.
“I have some ongoing and enormous concerns about our budget,” said Trustee Michael Patrick. After asking Salazar about other projected costs in addition to her compensation, Patrick hesitantly voted for the contract. “I’m doing this with dramatic conflict. I hope I’m right,” he said. “I guess my real difficulty is balancing a really important opportunity for us with whether we’ve got the money to pay for it,” Patrick observed.
While responding to comments from Trustee Shepard about the possibility of waiting to hire her until after the first of the year, Salazar said that in the past three weeks there have been prospects looking for sites. “They do look at the end of the year,” she said, even though projects may not get started until a future time.
Patterson also acknowledged that the efforts of Salazar may not result in immediate benefits, but rather in long-term gains for the Town.
In defining the extent and scope of her work with BERT and Town staff, Salazar said, “The word sustainability is key to me … All the partners in this have to step up and identify themselves.” After her contract is complete, Salazar said she would be available to assist the Town as a consultant.
As Town Attorney Bruce Fickel pointed out, Salazar’s contract is open ended and may be canceled by either party with 30 days written notice.