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Your Morning News - January 13th, 2015

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City of Aspen to Mail Ballots for Next City Election

Voters in Aspen will use mail-in ballots for the next election in May. Aspen City Council decided to make the switch to automatic mail-in ballots.

A majority of council members voted in favor of the mail ballots, saying allowing more convenience and expanding voting participation is a good idea. Council Member Ann Mullins was one of those voting in favor of expanding beyond a polling center.

"Things change, people, they’re traveling, their schedules are different. It is a small town, but it’s not a small town while everybody’s here, on that day, able to go to the polls.

Voters can still cast a ballot early or on Election Day at City Hall. That will be the only vote center in Aspen.  If a runoff election is necessary, it would also be based on mail-in ballots. The State of Colorado moved to all mail-in ballot elections starting last year. Those are carried out by county election officials. Cities and special districts can make their own decision on whether to follow suit.

Bear Management Plan Updated

Wildlife officials in the Roaring Fork Valley are updating a population management plan for black bears and their main priority is to reduce the rising number of human-bear conflicts.

More than 1,200 black bears roam the Roaring Fork and Eagle River Valleys. It’s a healthy population that wildlife officials have worked to control through hunting.

An update of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Population Management Plan considers how much hunting should be allowed in the future. The agency mainly wants to get a handle on the rising number of conflicts between people and bears. Problems have increased over the last 13 years. Perry Will is a Wildlife Manager in the Glenwood Springs office.

“We just didn’t used to have these kind of conflicts. And now all my officers deal with from May on, is dealing with bears. We’re trying to avoid that. We’re trying to get away from that.”

He says it costs his agency hundreds of thousands of dollars and finding places to relocate problem bears is getting more difficult. Trash attracts bears into town, especially during bad food years. Parks and Wildlife is taking public comment on its population plan.

Local Officials Sworn In Today

Counties along the Roaring Fork Valley are swearing in elected officials today.

Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle Counties are all swearing in commissioners, sheriffs, and other elected officials. In Eagle County, new Sheriff and Republican James VanBeek will take the reins, while re-elected sheriffs in Joe DisSalvo in Pitkin and Lou Villario in Garfield County will continue at their posts. Top election officials at all three counties are also being sworn in after getting re-elected last fall.

Pitkin County will have a County Commissioner returning after four years away from the board. That’s Democrat Patti Clapper. New Commissioner and Jeanne McQueeney will join the Eagle County board, along with fellow Democrat and returning commissioner Kathy Chandler Henry. Garfield County will swear in re-elected Republican Commissioner Tom Jakovsky.

RFTA Works on Parking Issues

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is using signs and flyers to try and keep drivers who don’t use the bus out of its parking lots.

RFTA points to the success of the Bus Rapid Transit system for packed parking lots. By 8am on weekdays, lots in places like El Jebel and Carbondale are full and sometimes overflowing. The problem is not everyone who parks there is using the bus. Shoppers of nearby businesses and carpoolers sometimes use the lots. Mike Hermes is Director of Facilities for RFTA.

“We’re going to do two things. We’re going to limit parking at the park and rides to transit users only, as well as put some stuff on our website to give alternative places to park and point out areas where we have extra capacity.”

He says RFTA will start by educating drivers with signs at entrances and flyers. Warning stickers will be used next and finally boots may be placed on vehicles. In the future, RFTA plans to add up to 200 new spaces at new and expanded lots Downvalley.

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