Editorial: Glenwood’s A&I tax extension is essential
Approving renewal of Glenwood Springs’ 1 percent sales tax for acquisitions and improvements is a no-brainer — it’s critical to moving the town forward, leveraging potential grants and capitalizing on state investment in the new Grand Avenue bridge.
Voters are being asked to approve two measures: A 30-year extension of the tax (question 2H) and bonding authority (2I) of up to $54 million to finance projects based on the anticipated revenue from the tax.
This is not a new tax, so it doesn’t increase anyone’s costs, and the bonding is not a gamble because we have an 18-year track record on what it brings in.
Further, it captures money from visitors and commuters, who account for 73 percent of the revenue the tax generates. This is important in part because Glenwood has no entertainment tax and gets no lasting help from upvalley neighbors with infrastructure and traffic issues.
The tax helps capitalize on Glenwood’s tourism and helps compensate for the irritation residents and workers must endure from being in a pass-through locale for tourists and workers headed to and from Aspen.
It has worked and has helped make the town nicer. Since the tax was approved in 1998, it has enabled Glenwood to build a new city hall, municipal operations buildings and the Community Center, and add numerous trails and sidewalk connections, in addition to a new water treatment plant, multiple land acquisitions and various landscaping projects.
We like it when supporters say what a tax proposal would buy, and, while the city isn’t being overly specific, we are confident that money would go toward a gateway redevelopment along the Sixth Street corridor once the new Grand Avenue bridge is finished, a riverwalk at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, and several city street and bridge projects.
We have argued before that the possibilities for Sixth Street and a properly developed confluence hold the opportunity to unlock the asset of Glenwood’s riverfront, turning away from Grand Avenue’s troublesome traffic and changing downtown’s ambiance.
Public investment is needed to ensure that Sixth Street, with nearly all of the traffic removed by the new bridge, lives up to its potential, and to jump-start the confluence project.
Elsewhere, city leadership is re-elevating the South Bridge project’s importance and hoping A&I tax money can help leverage grants that will make it a reality.
South Bridge would cost nearly as much on its own — an estimated $45 million — as is being asked for by the city, so partnerships with other entities and outside grants will be crucial to seeing any of these things through.
Other potential big transportation improvements include improvements to South Midland Avenue and the 27th Street Bridge, and new river crossings at Devereux Road and 14th Street. The A&I tax money could provide the local portion typically required of transportation grants.
Part of the A&I tax money also has been used to help the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts and the Frontier Historical Museum, which would continue under the proposed tax renewal.
Absent from stated goals for revenue from the continued tax is a performing arts/events facility that critics say was promised, though not in the specific ballot language, 18 years ago.
The city says there’s nothing to prevent that if a good plan comes along, although an additional bond question may need to be put to voters. In the scheme of the city’s needs, a theater falls to a list of wants, not pressing priorities such as improved traffic flow or confluence development.
Perhaps, in analyzing confluence proposals when the time comes, such a venue could be part of the project. Given the obvious need for events space in town, private interests might be best suited to make this happen as part of a bigger project.
In any case, we cannot find any reason to stand in the way of critical needs that add nothing to our personal costs. We enthusiastically support these ballot questions.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.