Glenwood Springs tax renewal supporters ramp up campaign
Community on the move a&I Tax renewal info meetings
• 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, Cardiff Schoolhouse, 4018 Sky Ranch Drive (near the Glenwood Park and Park East and West neighborhoods).
• Noon, Wednesday, Oct. 12, Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 815 Cooper Ave.
• 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road.
A range of Glenwood Springs amenities built over the past 18 years are just a glimpse of what’s possible in the future if a special city sales tax that helped pay for those projects is renewed, backers of a proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot say.
Everything from a modern raw water delivery system to the current city hall and municipal operations buildings, the Glenwood Community Center, multiple land acquisitions, various landscaping projects, and numerous trails and sidewalk connections would not have been possible without the special 1-cent acquisitions and improvements fund tax.
“There’s a whole list of things that have happened here because of the A&I tax,” Dave Sheriff, co-chairman of the Glenwood Chamber’s ad hoc Community on the Move Committee, said during a pro-tax renewal campaign event Wednesday.
“And as we take a look into the future, there are a lot of exciting new things that can happen,” he said.
On the horizon, if city voters OK a 30-year extension of the tax and new bonding authority, would be 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.
City voters are being asked in Glenwood ballot question 2-H to extend for another 30 years the 1-cent A&I tax.
A second, related ballot question (2-I) seeks up to $54 million in bonding to finance projects during that time period.
Community on the Move got behind the first tax extension when it was approved by voters in 1998.
At the time, major infrastructure and facility needs for the city revolved around a new city hall building and operations facility, and upgrades to the city’s raw water delivery system.
Those projects topped the list for tax funding, the results being the combined city hall and police headquarters on Eighth Street, the municipal operations center that now sits above Wulfsohn Road, and the water system upgrades.
But a long wish list was also emerged, including what became the community center and ice rink facility and steady advancement of the city’s river trails master plan. Part of the funds have also been used to defray operation and maintenance costs for those amenities, and to help fund two popular cultural organizations, the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts and the Frontier Historical Museum.
Those uses would continue under the proposed tax renewal. But the city has a lot more on the needs and wants list now.
Joining Sheriff and committee co-chairman Steve Beckley at the campaign event were Mayor Mike Gamba, Sixth Street Master Plan task force member David Hauter, and Leslie Bethel, executive director for the Downtown Development Authority.
Gamba described future transportation projects that could be funded in part using A&I tax dollars, like the long-talked-about South Bridge project, improvements to South Midland Avenue and the 27th Street Bridge, and new river crossings at Devereux Road and 14th Street.
Bethel and Hauter spoke to the planned beautification of Sixth and Seventh streets, and the potential for redeveloping the confluence area just west of downtown.
“I have a particular interest in what could happen with the confluence,” Sheriff said. “In looking at other cities where rivers merge, there are some phenomenal things that could take place through that corridor.”
Although no formal opposition has organized against the tax renewal, the proposal does have its detractors.
Former city council member Dave Merritt was a supporter of the tax from its inception, but partly because of one particular wish list item that’s never been built, a performing arts theater.
He opposes the renewal of the A&I tax without some specific language that a performance hall of some sort will be part of the package.
“To me, this represents a break of faith with the citizenry toward a theater,” Merritt said. “It’s also a large chunk of money for a long time, about $150 million for 30 years at the current rate. That’s a lot for the taxpayers of Glenwood.”
While the projects now mentioned for inclusion in future tax funding are needed, Merritt admitted, the ballot language is too loose, he said.
But the fact that a performance theater has not been built, and still isn’t in the mix, is his main reason for opposing the tax question.
“We seem to always be able to find a million here, or a million there for all these projects, yet we can’t find money for something that was promised 20 years ago,” Merritt said.
Sheriff said he gets that performing arts supporters feel slighted. But there’s nothing to say a performance facility couldn’t be funded out of future A&I funds if a feasible proposal comes along. So far, that hasn’t happened, he said.
“We certainly have not pushed it under the carpet, and I think it’s still an idea that’s very much alive,” Sheriff said. “But we have to look at the feasibility and the cost, not only to build it but to have the revenue to offset its operation costs.”
City officials, including Mayor Gamba, have also said the tax renewal doesn’t preclude a performing arts center in the future. It may, however, require a separate bonding question when the time comes.
Sheriff said it’s also important to point out that it’s a tax renewal, not a new tax. And, it’s a tax for which 73 percent of the proceeds are paid by tourists and those living outside of Glenwood Springs who come to town to visit or shop, he said.
“We feel it is important to renew the tax for 30 years because interest rates are the lowest they have been in decades, and we can build needed projects now, just like our predecessors did,” Sheriff said.