Biting my tongue . . . or not

Blogging and writing has been more difficult these last 10 months. It is not because I have nothing to say. I actually do.  I realize that not everyone agrees with me and that is ok. But I find myself mulling over the word decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.  I find myself walking a very thin line.  So mostly I find I bite my tongue and stay away from my computer.  For me this is painful.   

The reason for my discomfort and disconnect is simple.  I was elected to a local office. So now, rather than speaking my mind, I am trying to listen more and search for the common ground.  I now represent more than my one opinion. Sadly, sometimes I fail miserably.  But I continue to try to maintain a certain decorum fitting of one holding an elected office. 

More frequently I find myself trying to choose my words, and explain my position so carefully that I get lost in the weeds and I fail to make my position clear. I rarely put words down on paper — or in the computer — because, quite frankly, you never know where they will end up and how they may be interpreted.

While I intend to maintain decorum and seek common ground, I find I must continue to write . . . to clarify to me, my position. I need to write both sides of a situation, to more fully understand it. I need to explore the issues and my thoughts.  It will benefit me and those I serve. Some will end up here.  Some will remain on my laptop.

Right now, three issues jump to the forefront.

Grand Ave Bridge (still)

First is the ever-present Grand Avenue Bridge. I will not belabor the point, but I, like many others, are looking forward to the possibilities a new bridge will bring, rather than looking backwards at what Glenwood was, 20, 30 or 50 years ago. I am amazed that after as long as we have been cussing and discussing this bridge that so many people don’t understand the need and don’t see the potential benefit. Yes, it will be painful. During the height of construction and closure, my 7 minute commute will likely be five times that — if I drive.  If I am practicing what I am preaching, I’d better be walking, biking or on the bus. But more than that, I need to find ways to get others out of their cars and using alternative transportation.

Snow Removal

sidewalk parking garage

Courtesy of the Glenwood Post Independent

The second deals with snow and the fact that it is still around on many of our streets, trails and sidewalks. And another storm is looming. This is when exploring both sides of the issue helps — just a little.

Viewpoint one: There is still a lot of snow on the city streets and it has been a few days since the heaviest snowfall. I don’t like it. But what I like even less is that we  have such a hard time properly clearing sidewalks and trails. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (no laughing, please) and so it bothers me to see sidewalks that have a single shovel width haphazardly scooped, or worse yet, no attempt made. In my opinion, if it is a city code that sidewalks be cleared within 24 hours, then  they should be cleared and made safe and easily passable for anyone. I would ask that the city set the example.

This was discussed by council last week and we requested that city staff provide the protocol for clearing streets.  Public Works Director Robin Millyard provided the following Information:

As follows is a listing in order of priority for snow plowing of City of Glenwood Springs’ streets.

A. Emergency routes, school bus routes, and main traffic areas such as Alternate Route – Midland Avenue to Glenwood Park, South Grand Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Blake Avenue and Donegan Road.

B. Downtown Commercial areas.

C. Steep streets such as Cedar Crest area, Vista Drive, Sunny Acres, Traver Trail, the North Glenwood area, the Red Mountain area, and steep streets East of Grand Avenue.

D. All remaining streets in low and/or flat areas.

Grand Avenue and U. S. Highway 6 are plowed by the Colorado State Highway Department.

Robin Millyard asked that if you have question to call Rick Turner, Streets Superintendent at 970-384-6379

I am still awaiting information from the Parks Department on trails and sidewalks.

Viewpoint two:  Within the city limits of Glenwood Springs there are 84.04 “Lane Miles” of streets that must be cleared.  There are also a significant amount of sidewalks and trails. It should be noted that clearing much of the sidewalks within the city is the responsibility of adjacent residence or business.  It is the city’s responsibility to clear snow around parks, parking garages, city buildings and city trails.  Like it or not, the city has a limited budget and a finite number of staff to carry out those duties. If money and resources are put into plowing and shoveling, it is likely that some other program will be reduced.

Hot Springs Pool Outflow Pipe Relocation

Glenwood Hot Pots

Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Post Independent, John Stroud

The third is more of a comment. I believe the city made the right decision on the location of the Glenwood Hot Springs outflow pipe for a number of reasons:

The change in the floodplain mapping has created a hardship for one of Glenwood’s largest tourist attractions.

The move farther downstream mitigates some of the flood potential and the Glenwood Hot Springs liability

The pipes (the pool outflow and stormwater drainage) would have been moved by CDOT anyway with the construction

The Hot Springs is paying to have them taken farther downstream to a more optimal location.

The location to which CDOT would have moved the pipes would have meant a greater likelihood of future hot pots and the outflow pipe would not have been buried

The outflow pipe (not the stormwater pipe) will be four feet below the low water like in faster flowing water ensuring better mixing.  The flow rate of the river will help prevent random hot pots from cropping up.

The Hot Springs intends to work with the city in making some shoreline improvements while they are in the area, hopefully moving a shoreline restoration project in that area along.

Until next time, I remain your committed public servant!

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

So . . . what do we do with the traffic?

Question.  Where does all the traffic go during the Grand Avenue Bridge construction?

This question may not keep you up at night, but I guarantee it is keeping some folks awake.

Even with what the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) terms an “accelerated bridge construction” dealing with the day to day challenge of getting from the north side of the Colorado River to the south side and back may be –shall we say – a “challenge.”  Accelerated bridge construction would necessitate the bridge being totally closed to traffic for approximately two months under a best case scenario. 

So what is the solution to getting people into and through Glenwood Springs during this potentially painful period?

Introducing . . .  the “8th Street Connection”

The current expectation is that CDOT will be allowed to temporarily cut the railroad track in the wye area and build a temporary detour from the bridge that spans the Roaring Fork north of Veltus Park to 8th street, in front of Glenwood Springs City Hall and the Garfield County Courthouse.  This will come with the approval of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Temp_8th_Street_Connection

Graphic courtesy of Craig Gaskill, and Jacobs Engineering

Currently, vehicles coming from Midland Avenue into the downtown must use an underpass along 7th Street.  This underpass does not meet minimum CDOT height and width requirements. Trucks are the biggest concern. In order to use 7th Street, the street would need to be lowered or the tracks raised.  This connection is also a very dangerous path for pedestrians and bicyclists.


Current 7th Street Connection to Midland Avenue 6-15-13 - SMALL

It is anticipated that Midland Avenue to 27th Street and the Sunlight Bridge will also carry a fair amount of detour traffic, particularly for those heading up-valley.  However, there are concerns with the Sunlight Bridge.  CDOT is planning some improvements to that bridge in anticipation of construction.

An 8th Street Connection also affords the City of Glenwood an additional opportunity to accomplish a major goal – a permanent connection linking Midland Avenue to 8th Street.   City staff and City Council members, in a recent workshop with the city’s Transportation Ted_quoteCommission, made it clear that this 8th Street Connection now tops the list of city priorities.  According to City Council member Ted Edmonds, “The City Council has been very clear to staff — this is the number one priority. This is the biggest deal that is on our plate. This is the thing that should take precedence over other projects, if necessary.”

With so many stakeholders in the process,  there are many loose ends and unknowns.  However,  it is also an excellent example of the partnership between Glenwood Springs and CDOT and, potentially, others that could be beneficial to all.

 

What’s the big deal?Question_Mark

You may wonder why this is truly a BIG deal for the city. Here are seven reasons city staff, city council and the transportation commission must continue to make this the top priority:

  1. A permanent connection increases the connectivity and improves the circulation within the city of Glenwood Springs, a goal of the Comprehensive Plan, the Corridor Optimization Plan and the Long Range Transportation Plan
  2. Without at least a temporary connection, CDOT could opt to scrap the accelerated bridge construction in favor of a more drawn out process, one that could last 12 to 18 months but would allow traffic to still use the Grand Avenue Bridge or
  3. Midland Avenue to 27th Street could be used as the primary detour route for trucks which would impact the residents along Midland to a greater degree
  4. The city would lose the opportunity to have some of the costs for a permanent connection paid for by CDOT in association with the Grand Avenue Bridge project
  5. It will greatly improve pedestrian and bicycle safety from the Red Mountain area and Two River’s Park to the downtown area
  6. It will connect the downtown to the Confluence area and the potential commercial, housing, and recreational uses that may be developed.
  7. This connection has the potential to positively affect RFTA by providing a more direct route and easier passage for their buses.  

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on this connection at some point in the future as it moves through City Council.  However, you don’t have to wait!  Please take a few minutes to let me know what you think now!