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

Glenwood’s Police Deserve Our Respect

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Shield

Glenwood Springs is a special place. We have it all: natural beauty, great amenities, wonderful people. We are truly blessed to be able to call this town home.

Yes, we have it all. And we also have a dedicated group of professionals helping to make Glenwood Springs one of the most desirable places to live in the United States — the Glenwood Springs Police Department.

I had the privilege of being allowed to do a “ride-along” with Glenwood’s officers last weekend. Although it was a relatively quiet night, it gave me a glimpse into a side of Glenwood that I knew, intellectually, existed, but I minimize. It allowed me the opportunity to watch them in action, watch other’s reactions to them, and most importantly, talk with them and begin to get to know them.

As I told Chief Terry Wilson — I am in awe.

First, a disclaimer; I have law enforcement officers and first responders in my family. Perhaps I have a bias because of close relationships to these people. However, after this, I will never look at their jobs in the same light.

For about the same wage as the average skilled office worker, these individuals leave their homes and families, put on their Kevlar vests and utility belts, and hit our streets to protect and serve, not knowing if they will see their families again. Am I being melodramatic? Absolutely not.

In Glenwood, almost every category of criminal activity, from petty offenses to felonies, have seen an increase through July over the entire year of 2014. Felony cases are up 37 percent.

Glenwood Springs Police Department is a finely coordinated team that protects us from the frightful and disagreeable elements that find their way to our Mayberryesque town. They do so with such finesse that we see little of the sordid underside, allowing Glenwood to remain a great place to raise a family or to vacation.

Recently, two disturbing nationwide trends are having an impact in our community. The first is the increasing number, changing demeanor and level of drug use among the homeless, vagrant population. The second is the increasing threats and disdain toward our police.

The entire community is attempting to grapple the vagrant issue, and more information will be forthcoming regarding a community meeting in the next few weeks.

The negativity and threats toward our police is heartbreaking to me. The reality is that the public never hears about the thousands or millions of times these peace officers make the right decision under incredibly stressful conditions. Is that gun a pellet gun or a rifle? Is the driver of the vehicle reaching for insurance information or a gun?

police 1You say these things only happen in Denver or Los Angeles or Ferguson? Hardly. Just ask Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker. Or for that matter, ask our own officers. The media, both social and traditional, focus on the one in 100,000 as Kenneth Berkowitz, chief of police of Canton, Massachusetts, so aptly describes in a recent article. Often, the good is overlooked.

Believe me, there is plenty of good. During a traffic stop an officer encountered a lost and distraught driver pulling a trailer in an unfamiliar town at rush hour trying to get to a gas station on the other side of the highway. He gently eased into traffic behind and allowed the driver to make the lane switch to get where they needed to be.

On two occasions on foot patrol, two separate officers encountered someone well-known. In one case, the officer talked with and comforted someone who was distraught over the loss of a wallet and offered additional assistance if the person was not able to locate the wallet by the next day. The other officer was sought out for counsel and advice because he was considered a trusted friend. I am also aware of an officer in a nearby community who promised to buy a 25-cent glass of lemonade from a neighborhood lemonade stand, only to realize all he had was a $20 bill — but a promise is a promise. Imagine the image that young person has of their community police.

On many occasions the officers are greeted cordially or at least respectfully. That is not always the case and many tire of hearing expletives or seeing obscene gestures as they walk or drive through town. They are often punched, kicked or spat upon. They work long shifts, holidays and weekends, when most of us are sleeping or enjoying festivities. And they do so without complaint.

Why do they do this? Why do they put their lives at risk, see little of their family and stay in one of the most stressful jobs in the world for a nominal salary? Most would say it is because they love their job and want to make a difference. In my opinion, they do make a difference — a huge difference. We owe them our respect and admiration. Glenwood Springs’ finest certainly have mine.