Update Sept 2015 – Budget, Homeless, and More!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult. 

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles KeltySince we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 154pm – 6pm

Oct 20Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015:  CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement and first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

Old Library . . . new ideas

Glenwood’s downtown is an award winner!

Last Thursday,  Downtown Colorado Inc. announced that the Downtown Development Authority was one of four winners of “Best Group Effort” Award for Downtown Excellence.  What a wonderful accolade for Leslie Bethel and the DDA and the City of Glenwood!  The energy and momentum for Glenwood, not only downtown, is exciting.  When my family and I went to dinner last Friday at the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, the downtown streets were alive with people of all ages enjoying the evening and bringing strength to Glenwood’s economy. 

Problem in Paradise

Old Glenwood Springs Library

Vacant former Glenwood Springs Library Building at 9th and Blake.

However, empty buildings and storefronts in the downtown area present a problem.  They can become unsightly due to lack of maintenance and they present a less than vibrant image.  Glenwood is fortunate to have less empty space than many small towns, but what does exist  still presents a problem.

Front entrance to old library building

Last Thursday evening, City Council had the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the vacant library building at 9th and Blake and referring the question to voters in November.  Although the city has not committed to putting the building up for sale, the discussion continues as to what should be done with this building.  I commend City Council for asking the question, and, according to the Post Independent, many ideas were presented at the June 5 Council meeting including a senior center, a new museum, or a concept similar to Carbondale’s Third Street Center.  Others suggested a joint use by several non-profits for meeting space, office space and programing needs.  Use by the Salvation Army was put forth as well.  The Salvation Army made a second request for use of the building for, as I understand, offices and a distribution center at the July 17 City Council meeting.  

Careful Consideration

Determining the best use for this building or parcel should be done thoughtfully and deliberately.

It might be wise for City Council to use the City’s Comprehensive Plan as guidance in this matter. The  Comp Plan was the fruition of many meetings with stakeholders in the community as well as citizen charrettes and brainstorming sessions, and I believe, distills the wishes and values of the community. 

Comp_Plan_CoverrThe Comp Plan lists nine goals:

1. Promote long-term, sustainable, diverse economic development

2. Maintain Glenwood Springs as the regional tourism, retail, commercial and governmental center of Garfield County

3. Preserve the small town character while maintaining the livability of Glenwood Springs and increasing the vibrancy and commercial success of the Downtown

4. Address transportation needs and provide multiple convenient travel choices

5. Direct development to locations and building forms that are cost-effective to serve

6. Provide housing for the entire community

7. Support social diversity

8. Preserve cultural resources

9. Preserve natural resources

Historic Residential Area near old library 9th & Blake

Historic neighborhood surrounding former library building.

The area at 9th and Blake is a difficult, transitional area as part of the downtown area and the surrounding  historical residential area. The use of that building could have a tremendous impact on the downtown and those neighborhoods nearby. 

Best Use?

The use of the building by the Salvation Army, Lift Up, Feed My Sheep or a host of other similar groups may be altruistic, but it does not  fit with the goals identified in the Comp Plan. However, some non-profit uses could fit well into this area  Downtown Glenwood Springs has the momentum to make Glenwood into even more of a destination resort than ever.  The use of the old library building must be weighed very carefully. Even a temporary use of the wrong kind could be an enormous mistake.  Once a use is in place, it can be very difficult to change.

Blake and 9th looking south

Looking south on Blake from the corner of 9th and Blake

The RIGHT non-profit could be a perfect addition to that area.   Whatever the use of that building or parcel, it must contribute to the vitality and economic development of the downtown and insure that Glenwood Springs is a regional hub for tourism and retail.  It should also fit the small town character that so many want preserved. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . the best use for that building has not even been envisioned yet.  Glenwood Springs folks are a creative bunch – so perhaps it is time to get even more creative.

I urge City Council to act very carefully if they choose to keep and lease this building. Any use is going to have a tremendous long-range impact. Let’s find a use that moves Glenwood’s economy forward. I agree that the Salvation Army needs a new home, but not this building.

 

Ground Breaking News for Downtown

 

As the weather breaks, so does the ground for some snazzy improvements to downtown Glenwood Springs!  So what is in the works?

  1. 7th Street from Grand Avenue to Blake will see wider sidewalks
  2. The parking structure at 9th and Cooper and the parking area between the Fire Department and Methodist church will see sidewalk and landscape improvements
  3. The Alley on the west side of Grand, between 7th and 8th Street – from Grand to Colorado will be “transformed”Downtown_Improvements_001

7th Street

Brew Pub expanded sidewalkNo doubt, the 7th Street project gets top billing.  Designed to double the width of the sidewalks and provide a venue for outdoor, café-style dining, along the south side of 7th Street between Grand Avenue and Blake, this project is not without controversy.  Among other things, the project requires the removal of several parking spaces, most of which will be made up with the revision to the parking area south of the fire station.  Leslie Bethel, Executive Director of the DDA also noted that the minor loss is parking is also offset by several new parking areas in the downtown, including the new parking structure at 9th and Cooper and the CMC parking garage, which is available to the public in the evening and on weekends. Additionally, the county has completed surface parking areas along Colorado, between 7th & 8th str7th Street Sidewalk Expansion 2eets.  Bethel also emphasized the DDA’s efforts to “spread the improvements around downtown.”  This project should draw locals and visitors to the downtown to dine, shop and linger to enjoy the atmosphere of this unique area.  The benefits should be felt throughout the downtown and all of Glenwood.  Most of the restaurants in this area plan to remain open during construction.  Glenwood Canyon Brewpub will be closed from April 7 to April 23.

Alley Improvements

Alley_ImprovementsPerhaps one of the most delightful opportunities associated with this project are the alleyway improvements to take place between the Silver Club building and 711 Grand.  The DDA and 711 Grand LLC have partnered to make significant improvements to this often used pedestrian access from parking on Colorado to businesses on Grand.  The DDA will resurface the alley, including a concrete walkway with brick detailing. The owners and tenants of 711 Grand LLC, which will include two new restaurants, The Lost Cajun and Smoke, are funding other improvements including lighting, overhead string lighting, railings, planters and furniture.  The Lost Cajun and Smoke are set to open in the coming months.  Improvements to this area have been discussed for years and these improvements, along with the new restaurants will likely create a charming setting that will be a jewel for the downtown area.

Parking Structure/Parking Lot Landscaping

Pargking_Garage_landscapingThe new parking structure at 9th and Cooper and the parking area south of the fire station along Cooper are well used but lack the character that is desired for the downtown area.  The DDA is planning a reconfiguration of the parking area along Cooper between 8th and 9th to add 10 parking spaces as well as lighting, landscaping, seating and other improvements that should add to the attractiveness and vitality along this area. According to the DDA, this project should be complete in early summer, just in time for the Downtown Market every Tuesday evening in this area.

Funding for these projects totaled $1 million, $800,000 of which was a grant from the Garfield County Oil and Gas Mitigation Fund and $200,000 from the DDA general fund.  The City of Glenwood is also a partner in the project with in-kind public works support.  All the projects are scheduled for completion by early June.

What’s next?

With this season’s ground breaking news, the DDA, Garfield County and the City of Glenwood should be commended for making these projects happen.  Those of us watching improvements in downtown and elsewhere in Glenwood are anxiously asking, what’s next?  Bethel indicated that there are some great plans in the works including a master plan for the alleys, the promenade on the north side of 7th with  connection to the confluence area.  She stated that the DDA is working on some “great ideas” for downtown area on the north side of the Colorado River, along 6th

What do you think should be included in the DDA’s vision of downtown?  Personally, I would like to see some improvements along Cooper, between 7th and 8th as well as along Grand and 8th Street on both sides of Grand. Are there other areas of Glenwood Springs, where smaller improvements could lead to increased energy and life in our community?  If you have a suggestion, let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to YES on 7th Street!

YES!In the early 1980’s Roger Fischer & William Ury authored the best-selling book, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”  It has been used in countless negotiations, from those at Camp David to those in the bedroom.  The main concept is “bargain over interests rather than position.”   Interests can be defined at the “why” while position is the “what”.  

Interest vs. Position

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website designed to explain the art of negotiations to students explains this very clearly with an illustration I will paraphrase. Two chefs were arguing over the last orange. Both needed the orange to complete their recipe.  As a compromise, the chefs agreed to cut the orange in half.  One chef squeezed the juice from his half of the orange into his recipe.  It was not enough, but it would have to do.  The other used the orange zest from her half in her recipe.  It was not as much as the recipe called for, but again, it would have to do.  orange

http://web.mit.edu/negotiation/www/NBivsp.html  

Clearly, if the chefs had talked about their interest – why they needed the orange, rather than the orange itself, both would have had a much more satisfactory result.

Yes to Vitality

Last Thursday evening the negotiations and discussion ran quite late regarding the proposed outdoor seating policy and the 7th Street Sidewalk Expansion.  In the end, City Council got to “Yes” and gave their blessing for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to move forward with plans to widen the sidewalks on the south side of 7th Street between Blake and Grand to 18 feet.  This will allow restaurants along 7th to provide the option of outdoor seating for their customers.

Juicy Lucys 6-15-13 with roof deck - smaller

I do not think there was a person in that room who had an issue with the “why” of this project.   Glenwood needs to do whatever it possibly can to continue to create a vibrant, active downtown, which will benefit the entire community.  Wider sidewalks that create a pedestrian friendly district, further enhanced by landscaping and appropriate lighting will serve to bring people into the downtown. The outdoor dining will make them want to stay and linger.   The sticking point was the “what.”    The what, in this case, was the raised patio that may be needed by the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, as well as others, to create a level seating area as this concept is expanded.

Due to the severity ofBrew Pub expanded sidewalk the slope, it is possible that at least one of these patios would need to be permanent which is causing City staff as well as at least one council member some heartburn. The issue became whether public funds should be used to create an amenity that is used by a private business.   In the end, it was the “why” – the need for an energetic downtown that was the priority over the “what” for Council.  The vote was six to one, with Mayor Leo McKinney casting the only dissenting vote.

Caution and Assurance

Only one person, Jon Zalinski, owner of TreadZ, cautioned council members that a line should be drawn and all business owners given a similar opportunity.  From comments that were part of the public meeting,  as well as discussions during breaks and after, it was clear that the intent of both the DDA and City Council is to continue to make improvements throughout the downtown area to help those businesses attract customers. To paraphrase what several council members said;   benefits to the businesses in the downtown would benefit all of Glenwood Springs.   Areas that were specifically discussed were Cooper Avenue, 6th Street and the areas along 8th and 9th, east and west of Grand Avenue. 

As Leslie Bethel clarified in her response to my previous post, approximately half of the $800,000 from the county will still be used for improvements to the parking area south of the fire station as well as streetscaping along Cooper from the new parking structure to the library building.  

Trust Issues?

In an article on Forbes.com, Keld Jensen, a Forbes contributor who “writes about negotiation, behavioral economics and trust” maintains that in spite of 30 years of using the “Getting to Yes” theory, negotiations and collaboration flounder.  

 http://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2013/02/05/why-negotiators-still-arent-getting-to-yes/

He states that our biggest problem in negotiations and collaboration is a lack of trust in other people.   The citizens of Glenwood Springs as well as the business owners must now trust the DDA and Council to do the right thing and continue their work to make downtown Glenwood the crown jewel of the city.  Don’t let us down!

What else can be done?

Café_de_Flore jpg

 

Cafe de Flore, Paris. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Let me know what you think of this decision.  Besides relocating SH 82, what else would you like to see done in the downtown area to improve vitality: Street vendors, more street markets?  Do you think the current Street Design Standards of an eight foot pedestrian walkway are excessive?  Could sidewalks that are eight to nine feet also serve additional uses, like outdoor seating or merchandise display without truly creating a safety issue? Would Glenwood be wise to lose additional on-street parking to widen sidewalks in other areas?  Keep the discussion going to make sure your voice is heard!

7th Street Sidewalk Expansion – Is It Wise?

 

7th Street Sidewalk Expansion 2Who would not want a more beautiful streetscape?   Picture it; outdoor dining on a summer evening;  folks strolling leisurely along  beautiful wide sidewalks while wonderful aromas entice their senses.    That is the publicly funded Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) plan for 7th Street.   It seems to be a lovely plan designed to bring people into the downtown area and make 7th Street a showcase for Glenwood Springs.   This is the concept being considered at the City Council meeting this Thursday – tomorrow, by the time this blog is up.   It seems the perfect concept!

As many of you know, I get really excited at the mention of economic development and anything that will improve the business climate of the community.  But as I am so fond of doing, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment about this particular project.

7th Street Background

According to an article in the Glenwood Post Independent on December 21, 2012, http://www.postindependent.com/article/20121221/VALLEYNEWS/121229980  Garfield County agreed to kick in $800,000 for “ . . .off-site street and pedestrian improvements associated with the Cooper Avenue redevelopment projects . . .” – namely the parking garage at 9th and Cooper and the Library/Colorado Mountain College building/parking at 8th and Cooper.   The money was also earmarked for improvements to the surface parking area between the fire station and Methodist church along Cooper. 

However, according to a presentation Leslie Bethel, the Director of the DDA made to the Planning and Zoning Commission December 17, the funding intended for those Cooper Street improvements have been reallocated to the 7th Street project – with the County’s blessing.  According to Bethel, the DDA Board also set aside $200,000 in contingencies in 2014 for this project.

The plan is to widen the sidewalk along the south side of 7th street to 18 feet, which would allow the restaurants along 7th, including Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, Pullman, Juicy Lucy’s, Peppo Nino, and the Riviera to expand their dining to the sidewalk.  There has been discussion that the outdoor area would be owned and managed by the City of Glenwood, but leased back to the businesses.  At the December 17th meeting Bethel stated that the details regarding lease rates were not finalized.   She indicated that this revenue might be used to offset some of the ongoing operation and maintenance of the pedestrian bridge elevator.

7th Street Questions

My first set of questions revolve around how and why was the focus so swiftly switched from Cooper Street to 7th Street with seemingly little input from businesses other than those along 7th Street?  I realize that this concept has been discussed for a bit, but I wonder what the rush is to get it completed this year, particularly since that area is likely to be undergoing some significant construction for the Grand Avenue Bridge and pedestrian bridge.  The Grand Avenue Bridge is moving into the design phase.  Would it be wise to tie the design of this project into the design of the bridge and pedestrian bridge? I also have a difficult time believing that this area will be widely used during that construction period.  Would the city be better served to finish one project completely before running after the next shiny object?

My second set of questions focuses on whether this gives particular businesses an unfair advantage over others.  Is the City of Glenwood essentially subsidizing those businesses by footing the bill to increase their serving area?   Assuming there would be five to seven businesses primarily benefiting from this expansion, does the increased sales tax revenue generated, along with any lease payment justify the cost of nearly one million dollars for this project?  How long will it take for the city and DDA to recoup even the $200,000 that could be invested by the DDA?  Can a similar option be made available to businesses along Grand Avenue, 8th Street and Cooper Avenue as well as those on west 7th Street?   The City does address unfair advantage in municipal code relating to signage.  When considering a variance to the sign code, one criterion for approval is “Variances should not be granted which would allow any business use an unfair advertising advantage over any other business use.”  (§070.060.040(b) (4) (h) )

My third question is whether this is the best use for taxpayer money.  Yes, this is being largely funded by a grant, but it is a grant from Garfield County, and from the Garfield County Oil and Gas Mitigation Fund.  The DDA is funded through property taxes and through Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from the City Sales and Use Tax (more on that in a future blog).  Is sales tax being collected by other businesses in downtown Glenwood being used to subsidize this two block area? 

My fourth question is whether the City really wants to get into the business of being a landlord, which is essentially what they would be doing with the property that is being leased back to the business owners.

Thoughtful Consideration

I would love to see a wonderful promenade along 7th Street.   It would be wonderful to see all of the buildings in the downtown well maintained with clean windows, clean sidewalks, flowers and benches.  Beautiful streetscapes throughout the downtown entice locals and tourists to stay, shop and linger.  I applaud the DDA for making things happen in the downtown area.  At times, it seems like Leslie Bethel and her board are the only ones able to get things off dead center.  I love almost any idea that will bring additional vibrancy, people, and revenue into the downtown and into Glenwood and give businesses a fighting chance to succeed.  However, I would urge the city fathers to take some time and think this decision through thorough.  It would be wise to consider this not only from the angle of the businesses on 7th Street but from the angle of the taxpayers and those businesses who  will simply never have this same option in their current location.