A look back at 2019 in Garfield County: Part 2 of 2
Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories looking back at Glenwood Springs’ biggest news of 2019. Go here to read part one.
Sales tax ask axed
It was a historic ask of voters in Glenwood Springs: approve a 3/4-cent sales tax to fund $56 million in streets and infrastructure repairs.
By a very large margin, the voters said no.
Roughly 60 percent of votes cast in April rejected two ballot measures that would have implemented a sales tax and bonding capacity to fix the city’s streets, more than 70 percent of which are in poor or failing condition.
Ballot Issue A, calling for a 3/4-cent sales tax increase, and Ballot Issue B, a $16 million bond authority proposal, both failed. The 3/4-cent increase in the city’s sales tax would have funded at least $56 million in road repairs and rebuilding over the next decade, according to City Council and proponents of the tax.
But opponents said the increase, which would have brought Glenwood’s citywide sales tax to 9.35%, would drive business away. Supporters said the tax would have helped repair the 70% of city streets rated as poor or failing.
No charges in fatal officer-involved shooting
The fatal shooting of Allan George, 54, by Rifle police officers on the Rifle bridge in August led to a three-month investigation before it was announced that officers would not face criminal charges.
Following the investigation, 9th District Attorney Jeff Cheney “concluded that no officer committed a criminal violation” when shooting Allan George, who was armed with a handgun, in the back on the Rifle bridge as he attempted to flee arrest on Aug. 5.
George was wanted on charges of possessing child pornography, and the investigation had been going on for several weeks with his knowledge, according to the report.
George never pointed his handgun at Cpl. Dewey Ryan or Officer Shelby McNeal, the two officers involved, but Ryan still didn’t commit a crime in shooting him, the DA determined. Less-lethal force was not an option, according to the officers.
The two officers exhausted all possible measures in trying to get George to submit to arrest, according to the report. In total, Ryan and McNeal told George to put his gun down 46 times, according to a transcript of the audio recording device one of the officers was wearing.
27th Street bridge woes
“Deeply disappointed.” Those were the words Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa used to describe the 27th Street Bridge Project’s progress.
Ranked among the worst bridges in the state, the 27th Street Bridge was deemed “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” thus triggering its replacement. In November 2018, the city hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge replacement project after awarding contractor Ralph L. Wadsworth a $9.8 million construction contract.
Ralph L. Wadsworth planned to utilize a bridge slide technique intended to minimize traffic impacts. However, the bridge slide and other setbacks caused the bridge to go completely offline for a total of 19 days. Additionally, Ralph L. Wadsworth was supposed to have completed the project no later than Dec. 5, 2019.
Crews now hope to complete the remaining work by the end of January. Whether or not the city will assess damages and lane closure fees from Ralph L. Wadsworth remains to be seen in 2020.
ANB’s Grand plans
Earlier this year, ANB Bank went before the city’s planning and zoning commission with a proposal to construct a 9,706 square foot two-story bank and office building in the 900 block of Grand Avenue downtown.
The plan quickly became controversial to some because it called for the demolition of two, circa-1915 buildings and would force seven businesses housed in the historic buildings out by May 31, 2020.
One of those tenants included Jewels and Gems Owner Cheryl Guay who had done business in downtown Glenwood Springs for 35 years with the last 25 being on the site of the future ANB building. Thousands signed a change.org petition in opposition to ANB Bank’s plans.
However, bound by the city’s development code, the planning and zoning commission – after originally denying the proposal – approved the plans in December. At that December meeting Randy Diers, ANB Bank community bank president for Glenwood Springs said all departing tenants were offered one full year of free rent, free utilities and full security deposit refunds and the opportunity to remove any and all improvements that they may have contributed to the property.
In addition to Jewels & Gems the other affected tenants included: KC’s Winghouse, Tesseract Comics & Games, Bellini’s Fashion, CPA Services Pro, Inc., Glenwood Spa N Nails and the Glenwood Escape Room.
Glenwood goes green
On June 1, Glenwood Springs became the seventh city in the United States to be powered entirely by renewable energy.
Mayor Jonathan Godes signed the deal at the top of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park surrounded by residents, public officials and media outlets. Prior to the agreement, the city had been 35 percent renewable on the electric grid with 5 percent hydro and 30 percent in wind purchases from the city’s bulk power supplier the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.
Additionally, officials said the switch would not change fees for residents and would actually save the city $500,000 annually. The caverns, being a city electric customer, also became one of the first amusement parks in the country to be powered by 100 percent renewable resources as a result of the deal.
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Tucked into an overgrowth of sage south of Sopris Elementary School along Airport Road, two dilapidated, concrete walls raise new questions about the Cardiff town site.