After four years on the Durango City Council and serving as mayor during the Gold King Mine spill, Dean Brookie said he understands the importance of focusing on the big picture and balancing many priorities.
“I feel like I have more background to create policy than virtually all the other candidates,” he said.
After the August 2015 mine spill, he represented Durango on the state and national stage, which included testifying before the U.S. Congress and advocating for funding to clean up mines at the headwaters of the Animas River.
He expects the relationships he built during that time would be beneficial during the next four years on the council.
Brookie taught planning and community development at the University of Colorado Boulder, which helps him focus on a long-term vision for Durango.
Economic development depends on the city providing critical services such as sewer and water, and encouraging housing for employees, he said.
His main infrastructure concerns are the sewage-treatment plant, a project scheduled to start in the summer, a water-treatment plant below Lake Nighthorse and the stormwater drainage.
To help manage the sewage-treatment plant construction, Brookie said he supported hiring a representative to oversee the project because it is the most expensive project in city history. The representative will provide more oversight than the city has required on previous projects, he said.
“We made some commitment to the citizens about quality about odor control. I want to make sure I am involved to make sure the designers are fulfilling their commitments to us,” he said.
Utilities Director Steve Salka said an owner’s representative was hired, and it was part of his department’s plans.
The water-treatment plant will be built with the La Plata Archuleta Water District. It will add redundancy to the city’s water system. Also, it will allow more development on La Posta Road (County Road 213), Brookie said.
The city is working on a comprehensive plan for stormwater drainage construction projects, and Brookie said addressing this issue is critical because storms are getting more intense with climate change, and the system can’t handle them.
To help meet housing needs, he would like to see more dense housing along Camino del Rio and north Main Avenue and more secondary rental units. He also believes that additional housing in Three Springs, Twin Buttes and between Walmart and Home Depot will help meet those needs.
“The future is bright for housing,” he said.
He would like the city to consider giving developers incentives, such as allowing them to build additional units with fewer parking spaces in exchange for affordable homes.
For Brookie, Durango Transit and high-density housing are interdependent because if residents have convenient city transit they don’t necessarily need space for parking, and the city can allow developers to build homes instead of paving lots.
However, as the state cuts funding for the city’s transit program during the next five years, the council will have to find a way to preserve it.
Brookie favors asking voters to re-allocate part of the 2005 half-cent sales tax to pay for the Durango Public Library, Florida Road and city’s open space, parks and trails development and maintenance. But the council must find stop-gap funding for transit, he said.
The council and the La Plata County commissioners are re-evaluating large-scale investment in the Durango-La Plata County Airport this year, while staff make some small improvements, he said.
He would like to explore an airport authority as a management tool and see if that could result in new funding.
A property tax increase could provide a stable way to pay for airport improvements, while a sales tax increase would not be appropriate because it is too volatile, he said.