Glenwood Springs moves forward with Seventh Street beautification
In a special meeting Monday evening, the Glenwood Springs City Council, for the first time, heard from their constituents in an open, public setting following the controversial release of bid estimates associated with the Seventh Street beautification project.
The meeting came following a lengthy, contentious discussion by council at its June 7 session and a 4-3 vote not to release the project bid estimates.
The same foursome — Mayor Michael Gamba joined by Councilors Steve Davis, Jim Ingraham and Todd Leahy — later abandoned their original thinking, and as a result the council unanimously approved releasing the anticipated costs by phase, with a total reaching some $7.5 million.
After hearing from the public Monday, council again voted 4-3 along the same lines — with Councilors Shelley Kaup, Jonathan Godes and Rick Voorhees in dissent — to prepare a phasing plan as part of the 2019 budget and to seek bids this fall for construction to take place next year.
Monday’s meeting began with a brief presentation from Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Leslie Bethel, followed by questions from council.
“About 10 years ago, there was a design done for Seventh Street,” Bethel said, clarifying that the project has been in the works since before the two-year Grand Avenue Bridge Project that just concluded.
“It actually was tabled once it made it through construction drawings,” Bethel said. “So for the better part of 10 years people in our community have been talking about, you know, a full look at what the future of Seventh Street could be. I think that’s a fair description.”
Mayor Gamba then opened the floor for public comments.
Citizens who liked the idea of a family-friendly plaza and open space “festival street” along Seventh Street pointed out that, although expensive, “not doing something spectacular” would, ultimately, not benefit taxpayers and that the investment would, “pay for itself over time.”
Opponents of the beautification project’s direction, by and large, argued one thing — the cost.
Coming in at an estimated $7,453,869, factoring in various aspects of the project over six phases of construction, some citizens pointed out how spending roughly $282,000 on a “splash pad” feature as part project seemed excessive, particularly with other significant infrastructure projects already looming over the city’s limited budget.
However, If there was one thing both camps believed stunk about the project was the omission of public restrooms in the blueprints.
Proponents and opponents of the Seventh Street beautification project could not understand how portable toilets were still in place, yet permanent restrooms were not part of the plan.
Following public comments, Councilor Leahy, in the spirit of moving the conversation forward, talked about his previous years serving as council liaison to the DDA advisory board, and the phrase “good enough for Glenwood is no longer good enough” that was coined.
Councilor Kaup, who called for transparency regarding the release of the Seventh Street project’s bid estimates from the beginning, had a hard time understanding why the project still carried with it such a lofty price tag.
“We have streets that have not been maintained in years because there’s been a lot of money, frankly, going into downtown and going into the bridge project,” Kaup said. “We’ve been focused on that as a city, and I’d like to see us get back to some of the basics that we as a city should fund.
“Taking care of our parks. Let’s do some work over on Sixth Street, let’s do some work on our normal streets and get them up to a state of repair that we can be proud of in our neighborhoods and our community as a whole,” she said.
Leahy ultimately moved to “direct staff to prepare a 2019 Budget and phasing plan to complete the final phases of the Seventh Street project in full as presented — the funds to come from the A & I Budget; no funds will be borrowed.
“And, to direct staff to bid the Seventh Street project no later than Nov. 1, 2018, and to plan for construction to be completed in 2019 if bids are acceptable to council.”
The motion, like that of previous votes on the Seventh Street project, passed in a 4-3 vote with Gamba, Davis, Leahy and Ingraham in support and Kaup, Godes and Voorhees opposed.
Council is scheduled to discuss funding and other aspects of two other major infrastructure projects at its regular meeting this Thursday, including replacement of the 27th Street bridge. Council will also address the completion of temporary amenities at the former Grand Avenue Bridge North Landing site, ahead of carrying out the eventual Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan.