City Council candidate profile: Mike Gamba
Ward 4 (unopposed)
Occupation: Civil engineer and land surveyor (Colorado Registered Professional Engineer and Registered Professional Land Surveyor)
Family: Wife, Karin; two daughters, Grace and Sofia.
Education: Glenwood Springs High School Graduate, 1981; BS Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, 1987
Previous/current civic involvement: Four years on Glenwood Springs City Council, 2011-15, representing Ward 4. Council representative to the Transportation Commission (four years), Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Board (four years), Intermountain Transportation Planning Region (four years), Club 20 (one year) and the Victim’s Assistance and Law Enforcement Board (two years). Recently appointed to be the Glenwood Springs City Council representative to the RFTA Board. Previously volunteered as a coach with the Defiance Volleyball Club for six years, leading teams to one first-place finish, two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes in the Gold Cup Volleyball Series in Grand Junction; consulting town engineer for several local communities and district engineer for water and sanitation districts.
Editor’s Note: The Post Independent concludes its series of Q&A responses from the candidates in the April 7 mail-ballot election for Glenwood Springs City Council with incumbents Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba, who are running unopposed for their Wards 3 and 4 seats, respectively. Earlier this week, we featured Ward 1 candidates Steve Davis and Russ Arensman and the three candidates vying for the At-Large seat, Kathryn Trauger, Tony Hershey and Kathy Williams. Ballots are to be mailed to all registered city voters on March 16.
How long have you lived in Glenwood Springs?
I’m a third generation Glenwood resident. My grandfather moved to Glenwood in 1935 when my dad was 4 years old. I left Glenwood after graduating from GSHS to attend college and pursue my career. After living in Denver and Boston for a while I decided to return to Glenwood in 1989, and have lived here ever since.
In 50 words, describe your feeling for Glenwood Springs:
Glenwood Springs is a truly extraordinary place. In addition to our obvious natural beauty, and our geographic and geologic treasures that can’t be found anywhere else, we also have an amazing number of highly talented individuals, from doctors to artists, and entrepreneurs to professional specialists and educators, who profoundly enrich our community.
What prompted your decision to seek re-election?
This is a pivotal time for the city of Glenwood Springs. Over the next four years we will be addressing a wide range of issues that are critical to the long-term future of Glenwood Springs which includes:
• Grand Avenue Bridge
• Confluence area
• Redevelopment of Sixth Street
• Additional improvements to parking, sidewalks and alleys throughout the downtown area;
• Construction of the Eighth Street connection;
• Design and funding for the South Bridge connection;
• Planning, designing and constructing the 14th Street Bridge
• Planning, designing and constructing the Devereux Road to Midland Avenue Bridge;
• Rewriting the city’s land-use code to enhance economic development
Late last year, I decided that if the upcoming council could consist of individuals with the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to complete these projects in a timely, practical and cost-effective manner, then I’d be willing to devote another four years to the city.
Do you support the Colorado Department of Transportation’s current plans to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge?
Yes, the existing Grand Avenue Bridge presents very real safety issues due to the extremely narrow lane widths and due to the proximity of the existing bridge piers with the Interstate 70 highway ramps at Exit 116. With the current availability of the Bridge Enterprise Funds from the state of Colorado, we have been presented with an opportunity to replace this aging and semi-functional, but vitally important, component of our city’s transportation system. There is no doubt that there will be serious challenges to the city and to the region during the construction process, particularly during the three-month closure of the bridge. Unfortunately, there will never be a good time to replace the bridge, which is ultimately inevitable. If we wait to replace until it is a real emergency, the result would be far worse for the city in terms of construction impacts and compatibility with our downtown.
If a separate Highway 82 bypass is to be studied, what are your thoughts on how best to accomplish that, and what is the city’s role?
I had always supported a true highway-style bypass around Glenwood. Thirty-plus years ago, the obvious choices for the location of a bypass were along Midland Avenue or down the railroad corridor. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, neither of these options ever came to fruition. Now neither option is practical, economically feasible or politically acceptable. There are two major hurdles before a bypass can be realistically considered, political consensus on the route and the design parameters, and a funding source. With a cost estimate of between $250 million to $500 million, this is beyond both the city’s and the state’s funding capacity, and becomes a national issue related to the anemic funding of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. I’m willing to discuss routes and designs, but I’m not willing to devote significant city funds for more “studies,” when those funds could be better spent actually solving some of our transportation problems.
In what other ways can the city address the impacts of traffic congestion in and around Glenwood Springs?
We all like to think that the problem with traffic congestion in Glenwood is due entirely to the huge volume of commuter traffic from western Garfield County passing through Glenwood on their way to and from their jobs up valley. However, the last traffic analysis performed on this indicated that only 27 percent of Glenwood’s Grand Avenue traffic is commuter or “through” traffic. In the words of Pogo, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” Seventy three percent of the traffic congestion in Glenwood is due to vehicles traveling to and from Glenwood residences and Glenwood businesses. Due to our geographic constraints (rivers, railroads, and highways in a narrow valley surrounded by steep mountains) we have very limited options when attempting to travel from point A to point B within Glenwood. More travel options, or “connectivity” (South Bridge, 14th Street Bridge, Devereux Road Bridge) will alleviate a majority of our congestion.
Is the proposed South Bridge connection to Highway 82 needed, and why?
Yes, as noted above, the South Bridge connection is a very important component among the city’s transportation solutions. This connection will provide a much needed second connection for all of the south Glenwood neighborhoods as well as the entire Four Mile Road corridor. However, with a current price tag of approximately $46 million, the city will have to receive a significant level of outside funding in order to be able to construct this project. It will take a concerted effort by the next council to develop practical strategies for pursuing funding options and opportunities.
What are your thoughts regarding the potential for redeveloping the Confluence area?
Along with the redevelopment of Sixth Street, the confluence area has the potential to become a vibrant extension to our recently enhanced downtown core. Throughout our history, development in Glenwood has rarely taken advantage of our two beautiful rivers. The confluence presents an opportunity to place a thriving mix of retail shops, restaurants, and housing interspersed with green spaces directly at the confluence of both of our rivers. A key component of this development is the finalization of the design for the 8th Street Connection, which is currently in process. Once that is complete, I believe that the city should actively pursue development partners capable of planning and designing the entire area, and to begin constructing the actual development components.
Does Glenwood Springs have a need for new housing development? If so, what types of housing and where should that occur?
The city should continue to pursue a wide variety of housing in order to accommodate Glenwood’s current and future employees, families and retirees. A healthy mix of housing types accommodating a large range of income levels is necessary in order to maintain and improve our economic growth. At a minimum, our future housing developments should address the rapidly increasing demands for types of housing – multi-family units in the downtown core and senior housing. More downtown residences would meet the rising demand for homes within “walkable communities.” Additional senior housing could be located downtown or anywhere that the appropriate level of services is present. Finally, there is also increasing demand for single-family residences. All proposed residential developments should be closely evaluated to ensure that utilities and transportation infrastructure are sufficient to provide the appropriate levels of service for current and future residents. To the extent that this is accomplished, a variety of housing types throughout the city should be viewed favorably.
Should the city build and operate its own power plant to help make the city electric utility more self-sustaining? If so, what’s the most attractive generation source?
Due to significant cost increases from MEAN (Municipal Electric Association of Nebraska), we have seen our electric rates increase dramatically over the last several years. Our current contract with MEAN expires in seven years. Glenwood is a fairly unique municipality in that we have our own city wide electrical utility, and we have the legal and regulatory ability to generate our own electrical power. With a city-owned generating facility, we would be able to better control our costs, and consequently our electric rates would stabilize. I’m willing to evaluate any practical energy source for our electric generation, and I would be willing to pursue the development of any power source that could be shown to consistently provide reasonably low and stable power costs. I would anticipate that the upcoming analysis is going to demonstrate that a natural gas powered electrical generating facility is most likely to meet that standard.
Name one other key issue facing the city, and how would you address it?
Our 2014 sales tax revenue, which is an indication of the health of our economy, is still about 7 percent less than what was collected in 2008, six years ago. This indicates that economic development is still something that we should pursue. Economic development is a very broad topic. It can consist of rewriting our land-use codes and policies to encourage, not discourage, development that is beneficial to our community. It can also include the development of sports fields and similar amenities which would allow Glenwood to host large regional sports tournaments that can bring more revenue to town during the off season. Finally, the most effective form of economic development that the city government can pursue is to simply create a regulatory and administrative environment where local businesses can thrive and prosper, one where the government recognizes that their purpose is not to control and dictate to their citizens and businesses, but rather to serve and support them.
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