Tough times call for ingenuity, leadership |

Tough times call for ingenuity, leadership

Russ Arensman
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Russ Arensman

Glenwood Springs, like most of the world, has been living in challenging times. Sales tax revenue – our main source of municipal income – has declined 21 percent from a 2007 peak of $16.5 million to about $13 million in 2010.

Thus far, the city has been able to weather these difficult times with relatively few reductions in services by enacting salary freezes, furloughs and other spending reductions.

Furthermore, our financial reserves – about $33 million at the start of 2011 – have allowed us to complete several important infrastructure projects while supporting our local contractors and taking advantage of much lower costs.

Favorable construction costs have saved the city millions of dollars on our new wastewater treatment plant, the 27th Street roundabout, the Devereux pedestrian bridge, the whitewater park, rebuilding Donegan Road and completing the trail system to South Glenwood Springs.

These long-term infrastructure investments will benefit city residents for years to come, and are largely being paid for with a mixture of dedicated reserves and current-year revenues.

The city’s general fund has reserves as well – almost $4.2 million at the beginning of this year. But because employees’ wages and benefits make up about two-thirds of general fund expenses, we need to keep those expenses in line with the fund’s annual revenue.

For 2011, our budget anticipates almost $13.6 million in general fund revenue, nearly 4 percent above last year’s $13.1 million in actual revenue. If sales tax revenues continue to decline, however, the city may have to enact further spending cuts, which could include leaving vacant jobs unfilled, adding more furlough days, reducing employee benefits, and layoffs.

Yet despite these lingering tough times, Glenwood Springs’ economy is showing signs of renewed growth. Last year we saw two new Marriott hotels open. More recent arrivals include the new Pullman and Double Dog restaurants. Valley View Hospital is building a $7 million cancer treatment center, and Fiberforge, a composite aerospace parts maker, is expanding and moving into the city. Accommodations tax collections have been increasing since last July.

Meanwhile, the city is working with the Library District, the DDA and Colorado Mountain College to keep both CMC and the library downtown, and to add new parking there for employees and shoppers.

We’re also just a year away from moving the city’s wastewater treatment plant out of the confluence area. That’s going to create a tremendous opportunity for the city to work with private investors to redevelop that landmark property for riverside recreation, retail and residential uses. With some ingenuity, we may even be able to heat the new buildings with clean, low-cost geothermal energy.

Despite our challenges, I see Glenwood Springs as well-positioned to emerge from the current recession stronger than ever. What we need now are experienced community leaders who can work together to restore prosperity while keeping our city an attractive place to live, visit and to do business.

With your support, I’ll continue working to make that vision a reality. For more information, visit

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