Out my window, I see a few unsettling clouds on the horizon in the form of debate that has the potential to divide the “old school” residents of Meeker and Rangely from what could be described as the “new thought” residents of the two towns.
The meeting of the Meeker Town Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 4 was most interesting as a town noted for its conservatism addressed the issue of allowing or disallowing recreational marijuana to be sold within town limits.
(The Town of Rangely is addressing the same issue at this week’s board meeting.)
The Meeker board passed the measure that made it illegal to sell recreational pot in town, following an earlier vote to ban the sale of medical marijuana in the town limits.
The vote was 5-1 with Regas Halandras the only town board member wanting to vote down the measure, which would have allowed the sale of recreational pot within the town limits. Defeat would have then forced to town to determine where and under what circumstances the pot could have been sold.
The board was pushed a bit into a corner by state law, which stipulates that if a town or city doesn’t decide to ban sales, then the state, after Oct. 1, can issue licenses without the town having any input.
The board did the right thing in passing the ordinance, which does ban the sales of recreational pot in town limits. By doing so, they set up at least the chance that the city would have a say in what happens down the road if the law changes or if the courts rule that sales cannot be banned.
Both sides of the issue have firm and just arguments to stand on.
Halandras repeatedly made the points that: since marijuana is legal in Colorado that Meeker is saying no to the tax revenue and business licenses and fees that could and would be generated for the town coffers; that banning the sale of pot in Meeker is forcing residents to leave town for yet another reason when most folks are already leaving to buy clothes and groceries; and that once again Meeker is saying “no” to something that could increase revenue and show others that Meeker is not up for any kind of growth (he mentioned the opportunity that Meeker chose not to be the home of Colorado Northwest Community College as an example).
Regarding the tax picture, sales would generate a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent state sales tax and the town of Meeker would be able to add to that tax levy with whatever percent sales tax the town board wanted. That money would go into town coffers.
“The state has made pot legal here,” Halandras said. “The state would also regulate it just like with liquor. The state would investigate the owners and check things out for us, and I don’t believe we should just tell these potential local business owners that they can’t have a license.”
Board member Bryce Ducey led the charge to pass the measure, saying he doesn’t believe the conservative residents of Meeker would like “that kind of business in town.”
“The public perception here is different here than those on the Front Range, which passed the measure,” he said. “I don’t see where Meeker would support this.”
Board member Rodney Gerloff urged the board to pass the measure on Wednesday night, adding, “That way we can come back later after we have control of it; if we don’t, the state will sell the licenses without our control.”
Halandras came back with, “I know what that means; we’ll never look at the issue again until we have to. I still believe we are sending out the wrong message and passing on an opportunity to raise some added taxes for the town that will just go to some other town because we continue to say ‘no’ to something new.”
Several board members stated that they wouldn’t mind coming back to reassess the ordinance after the first of the year.
Most agreed that readdressing the issue after the new year might be a good idea — that the extra time might allow residents the opportunity to weigh in on the issue as to whether or not they are in favor.
Town Administrator Scott Meszaros and Town Attorney Melody Massih as well as board member John Strate all made it clear that it would not be a tough chore to revisit the issue after the first of the year.
“Regarding this ordinance or any other ordinance that needs to be re-examined, I would hope we would all welcome the opportunity to look at any ordinance and do what we have to do to act in the best interest of our residents,” Strate said.
Halandras is right about the town’s “just say no” reputation, the loss of taxes and licenses from the city coffers and that town residents are going to get their recreational and medicinal pot in another town.
The other members of the board were right to act on the moment at the meeting to assure that Meeker has at last some say regarding the retail sales in town.
And it is correct that the board should re-examine the issue after the first of the year after receiving more input from the residents of the community as to what their wishes are and figuring out how much revenue will be lost via taxes if the marijuana is not sold here.
But one thing is certain, now that the issue is on the floor in Meeker and was also on the floor before the Rangely Town Board this week: If you feel strongly one way or the other, contact your local town board members, write a letter to the editor at the Herald Times (firstname.lastname@example.org) or let the town administrators – Meszaros in Meeker and Peter Brixius in Rangely – know what you would like the town boards to do.
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A massive hats-off goes to the organizers of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials.
Meeker saw packed restaurants, packed motels and a packed parking lot at the trials from the beginning on Wednesday morning until the conclusion on Sunday afternoon.
Never have I seen a small town this size host such a massive event on such a grand scale as this with so few problems.
I know there were a number of small items that went amiss because I heard some of the officials talking. But none of the problems seemed obvious to attendees, and the many contestants I spoke with continued to state that Meeker is the Cadillac event of sheepdog trials and the newcomers just fell in love with it — all of them stating that without a doubt this is the toughest and the most premier event of its kind and very “professionally” organized. That is high praise.
Putting on the event, I was told, required volunteer work by more than 70 individuals. Those chores ranged from helping with judging, to parking cars, to driving shuttle buses to and from town and from the far-reaching parking areas up to the front.
Many assisted with “go-fer” jobs, some assisted with making the handicapped more comfortable, some just kept the dining tents clean.
There were a lot of folks doing hot, humid, thankless work all five days, and there were volunteers who didn’t likely get to see more than a few minutes of the sheepdog competition.
The food vendors served an incredible array of cuisine, ranging from racks of lamb to lamb curry to lamb burgers, to Navajo tacos, to pulled pork, pork prepared many ways, Indian fry bread, burgers and hot dogs, nachos, hand-shaved potato chips, all kinds of salads, salsas and dips and a wide variety of drinks, ranging from canned pop to sun tea, iced tea, lemonade and even hand-squeezed lemonade.
The vendors offered a large variety of items, and that made it much easier and more enjoyable for the spectators and competitors.
The Meeker Classic folks also claim that studies have shown that the event brings more than $1 million to Meeker’s economy, and it can easily be seen if you were watching the motels and restaurants in town from Wednesday through Sunday.
Good job, all!