Dimmit has served on the council for two years. She was appointed in May 2004 to fill the seat vacated by councilmember Jenny Russell, and elected to a new term in November 2005 with 364 votes, the second most of any candidate. She announced at the June 27 council meeting that she would resign her seat to pursue personal life goals, including graduate studies and travel. This September she will hike the Appalachian Trail, for example.
"You have been a light to the council and made us all better environmentalists," Fraser told Dimmitt when she announced her resignation.
Whoever wins November's special election will serve the remainder of Dimmitt's term, which expires in 2009. Her seat will not remain vacant until November, however. The council will appoint a new member for a three-month term after interviewing candidates at its meeting on August 8.
"I initially was against this because I thought it's a lot to do about nothing for three months. But … if we don't appoint someone, then there's six of us, then we've got three-three votes, and then we're deadlocked," councilmember Roberta Peterson said. "We're coming up to the deadlock process, which takes lots of time, and more heads are better than less heads."
Councilmember Mark Buchsieb disagreed. "I'm against it. We really haven't had any issues that have really come down even close to four-three." He added that the appointment would give one candidate an advantage in the November election. After the meeting, he said it takes about 18 months for a council member to get up to speed, making a three-month appointment unproductive.
The motion carried 6-1, with Buchsieb dissenting. Council will start advertising in the next few days for applicants, who must be over 18 years of age, have been registered to vote with the Telluride town clerk at least 30 days and have lived in town for at least a year before the election. Council members cannot be salaried employees of the Town during their term in office. The deadline to apply will be Thursday, Aug. 3.
Buchsieb added that the Town should be very active in rooting out voter fraud and very harsh in punishing it. He said the last town election in February had been marked by people voting who no longer lived in town.
The second special ballot question on Nov. 7 will ask voters to authorize an additional $10 million of debt toward purchasing the Valley Floor, which has been variously appraised at $26 million and $51 million; $9.9 million in debt has already been authorized, though no bonds have yet been issued, and the town has another $10 million in its Open Space Fund for the purpose.
Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or the TABOR Amendment, requires the voters to approve any new public debt by referendum. The specifics of the ballot question have yet to be drafted.
Steve Jeffers, the managing director for public finance at the Denver brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel Nicolaus, explained in an hour-long work session various financial strategies the Town could take regarding the Valley Floor.
Jeffers said there may be a way to keep the Town's debt related to the Valley Floor from counting toward its debt limit, which is about $36 million and expected to increase after the town's property value is reassessed in 2007.
"I do a lot of work with resort communities, which are in the same boat you're in and always have huge capital needs," he said. "I don't like to encumber debt capacity, generally speaking, unless I really have to, only because I've been in too many cases where people say $16 million looks really great now, but five years from now a council's sitting here and saying, 'We've only got $16 million, and we've got X amount we potentially want to do and now we're constrained by this other debt.' … I don't know where the future's going to take you."
He added: "Is this going to kind of tap out your ability to do anything else? No, this won't constrain you, except for open space purchases." Water and sewer, affordable housing, and all other capital improvement projects would not be affected by borrowing $20 million to buy the Valley Floor, he said.
The Town may even have enough money over the next few years to buy some of the five to ten acre mining claims along Tomboy Road, which sell for about $150,000 each, Jeffers said.