Glenwood Springs’ retail economy rallies ahead of 2019 budget talks |

Glenwood Springs’ retail economy rallies ahead of 2019 budget talks

A giant saw attached to heavy machinery slices the old Grand Avenue bridge into segments as onlookers marvel at the mass mobilization of the bridge demolition and detour in August 2017. The crew had 95 days total to bring the old bridge down and finish its replacement.
Post Independent file photo

On Aug. 14, 2017, the former Grand Avenue Bridge was closed to make way for the new one, leaving Glenwood Springs business owners wondering what the resulting three-month-long detour and final construction of the largest infrastructure project on the Western Slope in 25 years would mean for their bottom lines.

The result was three straight months of lagging retail sales, and a resulting hit on the city’s sales tax coffers.

The bottom line now, though, at least according to the amount of sales tax collected by the city this past August, suggests that the “Gateway to Glenwood” paved a healthy bridge for the city’s economic drivers.

Out of the city’s 15 retail categories, only three saw a decline in August compared with August 2017, while 12 enjoyed increases.

Collectively, Glenwood’s sales tax revenue amounted to $1,626,470 for the month, which equates to a 9.96 percent increase when compared with sales tax earnings during the same month last year.

While growth was obviously forecasted, two of the city’s biggest economic categories — “eating/drinking places,” and “motel/hotel” — welcomed double-digit percent increases in sales tax revenue generated from customers.

In August 2016, eating establishments served the city $229,307 worth of sales tax dollars. The city’s portion of sales tax revenue from the same industry in August 2017, however, was cut back to $210,808 when the Grand Avenue Bridge was down

This year in August, though, this sector of Glenwood’s economy nourished the city with a nearly 20 percent increase totaling $252,940 worth of sales tax dollars.

The lodging sector also accommodated the city with $230,913 worth of sales tax dollars in August 2018. When put up against the August 2017 sales tax earnings of $208,523, that’s a 10.74 percent increase.

With the new Grand Avenue Bridge having reopened to traffic on Nov. 6, 2017, September and October’s 2018 sales tax receipts should also see revenue increases revenue for the city. Whether or not they will register as high as August’s returns remains in question.

“We are happy to see strong ongoing growth, especially in our downtown area,” Glenwood Springs Chief Operating Officer Steve Boyd said. “Between now and the end of the year, I expect to see increases from last year in roughly the five to 10 percent range, because we are comparing against months in 2017 where the bridge was down.”

Additionally, at Glenwood Springs’ next regularly scheduled City Council meeting on Nov. 1, the mayor and councilors must take action regarding the proposed 2019 budget set forth by city staff.

“The most important project to complete in the 2019 budget is the replacement of the 27th Street Bridge,” Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa said.

The official ground-breaking for the project is tentatively planned for Nov. 14, she said.

Asked what new public sector jobs the city would finance in 2019 that it did not in 2018, and what these new positions will look at accomplishing for the city, Figueroa stated, “We added one person to our water department, and one police officer.

“Both positions were added because we needed additional capacity,” she said. “However, the city’s head count did not change. Through attrition we eliminated two positions whose duties were absorbed by existing staff.”

Additionally, “We do have funding in place for a construction manager position, but have yet to decide whether it will be a full-time employee or an outside contract,” Figueroa added. “This resource will help us oversee the multiple construction projects planned in 2019.”

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