Changes in Attitude . . .

 

“Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

Nothing remains quite the same

With all of our running and all of our cunning

If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”

                                                     -Jimmy Buffett

 

Glenwood Springs could be looking at a game changer for the Grand Avenue Bridge.  Changes in personnel and attitudes at Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and in the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) have drawn some additional focus on the cost of the Grand Avenue Bridge.  Other State projects are vList_of_Significan_Projects_March_2014ying for attention . . . and funds.  Currently the Grand Avenue Bridge remains on CDOT’s list of “Significant Projects,” at number 20, with a budget of $21.7 million.  It is the ONLY significant project on the Western Slope. http://www.coloradodot.info/about/transportation-commission/documents/2014/march-2014/02ProgramManagementWorkshop.pdf

 Cash Management

According to a February 2014 memo, CDOT has recently moved from an obligation based budgeting process to a cash management, expenditure-based system.  Joe Elsen, Program Engineer, for CDOT said that is a big change. He explained it by stating the obligation based system required all the funds for the project to be “in the bank” before it could be advertised.  He compared the obligation based budgeting to saving up the entire cost of your dream house before you could build it.   The expenditure-based method is more akin to being able to finance that dream home. 

 Critical Factors

Under the new expenditure based program, CDOT would budget for yearly planned expenses, hence the $20 million in the current budget. Elsen emphasized that the dollars need to be there when needed, so that is why schedules and cost accuracy become critical.

In current schedule the final design and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision documents are due in February of 2015 – a deadline that seems almost impossible to meet.  According to Craig Gaskill, consultant team manager on the project, the environmental assessment (EA) has been delayed by decisions on the bridge alignment, design of the pedestrian bridge, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues and how the detour should work.  Gaskill emphasized that while it has been difficult to determine the best solution for those issues, it was important to go through the process.  However, given the funding realities, the schedule becomes more important and he stated that “we’ve pretty much run out of schedule flexibility.”

 Waning  Interest

That being said, several have voiced concerns over how decisions are being made and the public process. As anyone who has ever served on a committee knows, decisions are not always easy. Getting to consensus can be difficult.  CDOT has involved the public in the process.  At first, the open-houses were well attended.  City Council chambers were filled.  All of the various teams associated with this project can be a little overwhelming.  There is a Project Working Group, a Project Leadership Team, and a Stakeholders’ Working Group.  Then there have been various task forces. 

 

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Colorado Transportation Commission

In addition to the current lack of interest on the part of the public, the fact is that there seems to be waning support for the Grand Avenue Bridge among the upper levels of CDOT and the CBE due to personnel changes and budget constraints.  Incidentally, the Colorado Transportation Commission serves as the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Board. That is not to say that there is no support or that the project is in imminent danger, but the priority seems to be turning back to the front range. 

 

Who is calling the shots?

The fact remains that the Grand Avenue Bridge is both functionally obsolete and structurally insufficient.  The fact is also that Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley is a major tourist destination for the State of Colorado, bringing millions into the state coffers. 

So, in my opinion, this begs the question:  Who and where are the decisions about the future of Glenwood Springs being made? The Project Leadership Team (PLT), the Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) and the various task forces, are advisory groups to the Project Working Group (PWG).  We have been told that it is the PWG that makes the decisions. 

CDOT’s web site does not list the individuals on the Project Working Group it simply lists organizations represented including:  CDOT Region3; CDOT Staff Bridge; Colorado Bridge Enterprise; Federal Highway Administration, Colorado Division; City of Glenwood Springs; Consultant Team. Who are the representatives from these various agencies?   Can the minutes from the PWG meetings be made available to make this process more transparent? Was consensus reached by the PWG on all issues?

As we move into difficult decisions about priorities for our bridge, the citizens of Glenwood Springs should be privy to those decision and the basis on which they are made. They directly impact our lives.  Since it is difficult to find anything to laugh about in this case, changes in attitude may indeed make us all go insane.

 

For More Information:

Below is a link to a more recent update – dated April 17, 2014, from Scott Richrath, CDOT Chief Financial Officer and Scott McDaniel, CDOT Acting Chief Engineer to the Transportation Commission:

http://www.coloradodot.info/about/transportation-commission/current-agenda-and-supporting-documents/01-program-management-workshop.pdf

Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund:  http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/BridgeEnterprise

CDOT SH 82/Grand Avenue Bridge website:  http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge

 

 

 

Conversations About Mental Health

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Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons

In 2012 1,053 people committed suicide in Colorado.

 

That is 4.4 times the number of people who presumably died when the Malaysian airliner disappeared in March.  And that is only in Colorado!

 

Serious mental illness has touched almost everyone at one time or another, either through their own struggle or through the struggle of a friend or loved one.  The Roaring Fork Valley lost a talented and well know member of the community when Stewart Oksenhorn chose to take his life last February.  Sadly enough, instances like this are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

 

According to  the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Mental Illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.”  Contributing factors include life experiences, biological factors and family history.

 

Getting Help

Getting help, and taking care of one’s mental health is as critical as taking care of one’s physical health.  But there is a problem.  Like the social stigma of cancer in the 20th century and even still today in some cultures, there remains a certain stigma attached to mental illness.   According to an article in Psychology Today, August 20, 2013, Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. categorizes this stigma in two ways. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201308/mental-health-stigma  First is the social stigma, characterized by “prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior directed toward individuals with mental health problems.”  The other, he states is a perceived stigma or self-stigmastigma, which can affects “feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcome.”

 

Dr. Davey noted that the media plays a role in the continuation of the stereotypes of those with mental health issues.  This stigma can lead to poor social support, exclusion and low self-esteem.  It also may prevent those needing help from seeking help.

 Join the Conversation

This Saturday, from 2 p.m.to 4:30 p.m. a discussion will take place at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library. Titled a Community Conversation About Mental Health, the dialog will focus on mental health, mental illness,  recover and the impact of mental illness.   Co-sponsored by Creating Community Solutions Colorado and Mind Springs Health,  the program will is slated to include discussions about the basics, attitudes and mental health in our community.

 

Another local group, Roaring Fork affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  has also been ramping up efforts to reach out to families and friends of those with mental illness as well as first responders, to provide training and support.

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I urge everyone to join in this effort to educate those living in our area about mental health, mental illness and the options available.  It is time to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and learn to support and care for those whose lives are affected by this disease, just as we would support and aid someone with diabetes, cancer or kidney disease.

 Resources

If you cannot come to the discussion on Saturday, or if you would like more information, or if you need help, please contact:

 

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Aspen Hope Center: 970-925-5858 (24 hour Hopeline)

 

 

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Mind Springs: 888- 207-4004 (toll free) 24 hour crisis line  and   Office 970-945-2583

 

 

Roaring Fork NAMI: 970-618-7770  namirfv@gmail.com

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NAMI Colorado: www.namicolorado.org