Q&A with Ben Turati, candidate for Oak Creek town trustee
Occupation: Timber sale administrator, U.S. Forest Service.
Prior political experience: Served one year as Oak Creek town trustee.
Civic involvement: Current board member, Labor Day Committee member.
List your top three priorities as a town council candidate and talk about how you would go about accomplishing them.
Infrastructure: Continue to work on the plans already developed for Oak Creek. Start focusing on priorities as well as any new areas identified. Work together with the mayor, board members and public works.
Business Improvement Grants (BIG program): Continue to invest in the community to help improve current businesses and attract new ones to the town. Sales tax revenue goes a long way to assist the town to accomplish projects with the additional funding it provides.
Housing: Like in most areas, housing is an issue many towns are facing. Trying to develop appropriate solutions to this issue is one the town has already began to address and will need to continue to look into. Continuing to have conversations and look at potential options will be critical as well as areas for potential growth.
The COVID-19 outbreak has had unprecedented impact on our county. How has it impacted Oak Creek and what role do you believe the town needs to play to navigate those impacts?
The town of Oak Creek will need to continue to provide the community with information as it is presented. There are many community members and businesses that have been adversely affected by the current situation, and we as a community need to ensure that they are provided any assistance/options they need.
What goals do you have in terms of economic revitalization of some of the empty commercial spaces on Main Street?
As stated previously, continue the BIG program. We have received many comments and compliments to what has already occurred. I would like to continue and strive to bring more local business to the town.
Looking ahead, how is Oak Creek preparing for the changes in the coal industry, both in terms of tax revenue and jobs?
I feel currently, the town is prepared for the effects of the changes presented. Like everything, being adaptable and able to address issues as they develop will continue to be a priority. Alternates are beginning to be looked at in terms of tax revenue. Examples would be the marijuana industries currently in town as well as trying to get new business in the town to continue to grow our sales tax revenue.
How do you want to see Oak Creek change, and how do you want to see it maintain its unique small town identity?
I think that with any small town, growth in inevitable. Looking at the potential for more housing and bringing new members of the community here, there are certainly ways to keep the “small town” feel. Events like Labor Day and Taste of South Routt are great examples of this. Downtown has been able to keep the small town feel, continuing to look at what improvements can be done will also help restore that feel. The new Mountain Park is also an incredibly unique feature to the town and allows its residents to “escape” right out their own backdoor.
There are very few options for early childcare in Oak Creek, what would you do to address this?
I believe that we have been addressing this issue, with the addition of Little Lambs and the SOROCO programs already in place. We are also looking forward to the work the town is doing with the after-school programs and summer camp options. This year is unique with the current situations taking place, but we are hoping to overcome this and have more options become available.
Many residents in Routt County struggle with affordable housing, both in and out of Oak Creek. How would you address this issue?
With housing costs in Steamboat Springs on the rise, areas such as Oak Creek, Phippsburg, Yampa and even Hayden should expect to have the need for more housing. It is something the town needs to prioritize and really develop practical solutions for. We need to look at which options will best serve the town and the community. We will need to identify the needs and appropriate locations to examine, develop and likely reexamine to ensure we are achieving the desired goals. Reevaluating current lots and empty houses and incentives for potential development should be looked at as well.
How has your experience and background equipped you to serve Oak Creek as a town council member?
I have been fortunate enough to represent the community for the last year as a board member. I have been a member of the Oak Creek community going on 2 1/2 years. It has become my home. My knowledge and experience have grown exponentially from when I first started on the board, being voted on during a special election to replace a member who resigned. Engaging with community members and staying informed on current situations, I feel I am able to provide a valuable voice for the community and would like to continue to serve in this capacity.
Editor’s note: The town of Oak Creek will be holding an election Tuesday, April 7. Voters will be able to drop off their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Oak Creek Town Hall, 129 Nancy Crawford Blvd., if they haven’t already mailed them in. There are seven candidates running for four open trustee positions, and two candidates vying for mayor. Trustee candidates include Wendy Gustafson, Charli Hollingshead, Rhonda Crawford, William “Bill” Auer, Kelly McElfish, Lynda Hoskinson and Benjamin Turati. The two mayoral candidates are Bernard Gagne and Nikki Knoebel.
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