Trustees and commissioners open discussion about the future of retail marijuana and growing operations

MEKER | In response to a request from Rio Blanco County Commission chair Shawn Bolton, Meeker’s board of trustees met with the county commissioners in a joint meeting to discuss the issue of retail marijuana sales and grow operations in RBC.
Speaking for Bolton, who was in Washington, D.C., economic development coordinator Katelin Cook said there are two issues to consider independently: retail marijuana sales and marijuana grow operations.
The board was divided on whether the town should put the matter to a vote on the ballot, but agreed that staff should begin to gather information from surrounding municipalities to compile a list of pros and cons.
Mayor Regas Halandras said, “We’re not keeping it (marijuana) out of town by not having a store here,” and as a result, the town is losing sales tax revenue and state-generated funding from marijuana taxes that goes toward school districts.
“We need to get all of our bias out of the way and decide if this is right for our communities,” said Commissioner Jeff Rector, who stated his personal opposition to legalization, but his desire to do what the people want as an elected official. “We’ve got to come together as a group and figure out what’s best for our communities.”
“There’s a lot of work staff would need to do,” said Town Administrator Scott Meszaros. “There’s lots of issues: zoning, law enforcement, land use.”
Halandras pointed out that the topic is on Rifle’s upcoming ballot. Till now, Rifle has only had medical marijuana dispensaries. Silt, DeBeque and Parachute have retail facilities, and Palisade voted to approve retail sales in the last election, even though Mesa County has issued a moratorium.
“We need to be proactive, because one of these days it’s going to show up,” Halandras said.
All it would take to put the matter to a public vote in the Town of Meeker is a petition with 5 percent of the number of registered voters’ signatures. There were 1,225 registered voters in Meeker in 2016. Five percent of that would be 62 signatures.
The commissioners plan to hold a similar meeting with Rangely’s town council next week to discuss the subject.
The board also talked about the possibility of establishing an intergovernmental agreement with the county regarding “enclaves” of county property within the town limits and how services, particularly water, are applied to those properties. Those properties are mostly located on the east end of town along School and Market streets.
“We’re there doing the job, but it makes it tougher on law enforcement, especially animal control,” said Police Chief Phil Stubblefield.
In the regular meeting of the board, the town approved a liquor license renewal for the Meeker Hotel and Café and received the annual town audit report from Colorado CPA owner Marlo Coates.
Coates said the town’s finances are in good order. “I didn’t find anything wrong with your financial statements.”
Business owner Bobby Gutierrez expressed his thanks to the board for the business grant program, and said as a result Wendll’s has been able to repaint and purchase equipment to begin marketing “White River Cold Brew” coffee.
Police Chief Phil Stubblefield said calls in May increased from 186 to 319, which he attributed to “warmer weather” and an uptick in domestic violence calls.
The next town council meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 5, and will be preceded by a Meeker Urban Renewal Authority meeting.