Public gets say Monday night after lengthy Glenwood Springs 7th Street redux | PostIndependent.com

Public gets say Monday night after lengthy Glenwood Springs 7th Street redux

An earlier rendering by consultants Shannon Murphy Landscape Architects and Charlier Associates shows the concept for a redesigned "festival street" on Seventh between Cooper and the new Grand Avenue Bridge.
City of Glenwood Springs / DDA

The public will have its chance to weigh in at a special Glenwood Springs City Council meeting Monday evening regarding its sentiments about where the estimated $7.5 million 7th Street Beautification Project goes from here.

For over two years, business owners and the public have been shown pretty pictures of a final project that would create a “festival street” along Seventh between Cooper and Colorado avenues, following completion of the new Grand Avenue Bridge.

All along, the estimated costs have been increasing for the various aspects of the project, which is to include plaza areas, landscaping and other features, with the ability to close the street to traffic for special events.

That has raised the question of how much the city and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) can bite off financially, and how soon in the face of other mounting infrastructure needs around town.

The special public-input session comes following a lengthy City Council work session with the DDA last Thursday to review the previous discussions and various costs associated with different aspects of the project.

According to correspondence between the DDA and council, the first meeting between city staff and the Seventh Street project management team took place on June 27, 2016. That day, a “well attended” stakeholder meeting took place, which included 19 public participants. Design concepts were presented at an open house, and those in attendance completed a survey.

Respondents illustrated a strong desire for an improved pedestrian environment along Seventh Street, but also had grave concerns that businesses would not survive an extended period of street construction coming on the tails of the massive bridge project.

The Seventh Street proposal went on to prompt 45 recorded “key dates” beginning in May 2016 through June of this year. Three of those invited public participation.

A meeting in early January 2017 was deemed a “7th Street public meeting open house design development update,” and one on March 27, 2017, was called to discuss storm water issues associated with the project.

“I had been told that most of the public input came before April 2017 when us new councilors came on to council,” At Large City Councilor Shelly Kaup said.

“Since our budget session last summer and last fall, when it really became apparent what the level of spending was and the level of cost on the project, which was at an $8.5 million to $10 million number, that you can see in some of the data. … That’s when I just really started calling for, hey, why is this project so expensive, what’s making it so expensive and is it really appropriate for us to spend that kind of money on a two, to two-and-a-half [block] section of one street?”

The project cost conversation was initially stifled when Mayor Michael Gamba and Councilors Steve Davis, Jim Ingraham and Todd Leahy killed a motion by Kaup at the June 7 City Council meeting calling for “full, transparent disclosure on scope of the project, phasing of the project, estimated cost and possible funding sources.”

While those who voted against releasing the bid estimates argued it would taint the bidding process by showing the city’s hand, other quarters did not view the Seventh Street project as a game of Texas hold ‘em. Some members of the public also openly questioned the council majority’s motives.

At the July 5 council meeting Gamba, Davis, Ingraham and Leahy flip-flopped following Colorado Open Records requests from the Post Independent and a private citizen seeking public information about the costs, and joined Kaup and Councilors Rick Voorhees and Jonathan Godes in unanimously deciding to release the bid estimates associated with the project.

Exactly how much were those bid estimates across six phases of construction work?

Phase one, involving a new sanitary sewer line, is expected to cost the taxpayers possibly $681,000, according to engineering estimates for the work revealed at the Thursday work session.

Phases two and three, which get into the “beautification” aspect of the project, will carry estimated price tags of roughly $1.7 million and $1.9 million, respectively.

Phase 4, which includes landscaping and furniture for the plaza areas, had an estimated cost of $608,580. Phase 5, deemed water features, will add $687,375 to the running bill, with the final phase, titled “splash pad,” would tack on an additional $282,045.

Totaled up, the estimated cost, plus additional under bridge work and further landscaping, comes out to a possible $7,453,869 bill.

“I still have trouble understanding why it’s costing so much,” Kaup reiterated. “This is coming out of city tax payer funds, and I feel it needs to be an open discussion.”

That open discussion will take place at 6 p.m. tonight at a single-topic special meeting in council chambers at City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., with possible action taken by council in terms of how to proceed with the project.

“It will only be related to the Seventh Street project, and public comment will be encouraged,” Mayor Gamba said at a previous council meeting.