Neighborhood needs a key issue for Glenwood councilor-elects

A common theme among the three new Glenwood Springs City Council members elected Tuesday may very well have tapped into a desire among voters for the city to pay a little more attention to the neighborhoods outside the downtown core.

“One of the comments I heard most when I was out there talking to voters is a sense of ‘us versus them’ when it comes to south Glenwood and the larger city,” said Jonathan Godes, who easily won election to the Ward 5 seat in the neighborhood-specific balloting over fellow candidates Amber Wissing and Don Gillespie.

“A lot of attention is being paid right now to downtown, rightly or wrongly, because of the bridge,” Godes said of the ongoing Grand Avenue bridge replacement and plans by the city to work with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to redevelop the areas on either side of the new bridge once it’s complete.

“I did hear that sentiment a lot in Ward 5,” he said after the tallies were announced Tuesday night, adding that one of his goals will be to push for the city to “work quickly and aggressively” to move forward on South Midland Avenue improvements and lining up funding for the South Bridge project.

Former City Council member Shelley Kaup, who won election to the open at-large seat in the four-way contest over longtime former DDA board member and lawyer Charlie Willman, restaurant owner Jonathan Gorst and former councilor Rick Davis, put a similar focus on neighborhood needs during her campaign.

“I would love to think that it was because I was working for getting down to community basics like making our town more livable and listening to the community,” Kaup said. “I felt like I was working for the issues that matter to the people who live here.”

That includes issues such as those being brought forward by the Imagine Glenwood neighborhood group about controlling vehicle speeds and installing more pedestrian protections on side thoroughfares such as Blake, Pitkin and Midland avenues, to discourage motorists from trying to side-skirt Grand Avenue.

“I do think people are interested in that community message … and creating livability and quality of life for the city,” Kaup said.

Newly elected councilor Rick Voorhees, who ran unopposed for the open Ward 2 seat, also spoke during the campaign about making sure the needs of his West Glenwood neighborhood and other outlying areas were being met.

Election results are expected to be certified in a few days, and the newly elected council members will be sworn in at the April 20 meeting.

They will replace Stephen Bershenyi, Leo McKinney and Matt Steckler, who were all term-limited and could not run again.

Turnout in the Tuesday election was higher than the council election two years ago, at 38.7 percent compared with 34.5 percent in 2015, when voters also decided two contested seats.

More than 600 ballots out of the total 2,043 that were completed came in on Election Day, City Clerk Catherine Fletcher said.

Willman and Wissing had run in this spring’s election as an unofficial slate in their respective council races and had enjoyed significant financial support from the downtown and tourism business community.

Willman said after the tallies were announced Tuesday that he couldn’t necessarily pinpoint the mood of voters in this year’s election and noted that he and the other candidates shared similar views on most of the big issues.

“It was a close election, and there clearly was a good choice among the candidates,” he said.

Regarding his support within the business community, “They are the people who know what I’ve done and what I can do,” Willman said. “I don’t see that as being a detriment or a positive, either one.”

Mayor Michael Gamba, whose Ward 4 seat was not up for election Tuesday, downplayed any sort of bucking of the business establishment. Rather, he said there were simply a lot of qualified candidates in a pair of competitive races.

“I’m not reading too much into it, and I’m not seeing any major shift,” Gamba said. “I’ve known Shelley for a long time and have worked with her on the (city) transportation commission. I’m looking forward to working with her and Jonathan and Rick on all of these issues.

“We do have a lot of exciting things going on in Glenwood right now that people are noticing, and that prompted a lot of people to run for City Council,” he added.

Gamba also noted that, on the action front, the city does have a request for proposals out for the Midland Avenue work, which will involve an extensive rebuild. The city also has had conversations with Congressman Scott Tipton’s office and state transportation officials about identifying possible federal and state funding for South Bridge, which has an estimated price tag of $45 million, Gamba said.

“We’re not ignoring the other neighborhoods, but there has been a necessity to deal with Eighth Street and with Seventh Street and with Sixth Street, which will be abandoned as Highway 82,” he said. “We have to do something with that area.”

As for some of the major projects that are in the city’s long-term transportation master plan, South Bridge, Midland Avenue and replacement of the 27th Street bridge, all in the south Glenwood area, top the list, Gamba said.

Making a return to a regular maintenance schedule for city streets and other infrastructure is also something council has been discussing as far as a major funding need heading into 2018, he said.

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