Guest column: Yearly presence in D.C. is key to bringing grants home to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs City Council member
On Wednesday, I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C., on behalf of our city to meet with our scenators and Congressional representatives about issues and concerns directly impacting Glenwood Springs. Ultimately, it’s a “big ask” opportunity to get support for our community’s needs and fund projects for the good of Glenwood.
We are slated to meet with Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper as well as Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. Visits also include meetings with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Transportation.
The big picture goal of the trip: Advocating for South Bridge funding and a continuation of the fight against the RMI expansion, all while reminding our elected officials to keep supporting our community.
With trust in government at historical low numbers and only 30% of Americans polled saying they trust the government, I’ve decided to infuse some transparency into the benefits of this trip as well as how your local government spends your tax dollars and finds funding for the many needed projects a municipality regularly has slated.
To start, a bit of background. In the summer of 2016 with the hiring of City Manager Debra Figueroa by Mayor Mike Gamba’s City Council, we contracted with Sustainable Strategies, a D.C.-based government affairs and political strategy group that specializes in helping communities obtain resources for revitalization projects. Figueroa had built strong alliances with Sustainable Strategies in her last role in city management in Pennsylvania, and she brought those connections here, which have been a huge benefit to Glenwood.
In the last six years, through the help of Sustainable Strategies, we’ve leveraged $23 million in grant funding. This is a significant jump from the grant funding we saw prior to 2016. The city maintains a spreadsheet since 2017 of all the grants we’ve received (averaging 30 a year) for myriad projects including infrastructure improvement on Cedar Crest, almost $1 million for Regional Fire Department Equipment, $900K for the Sayre Park revitalization, and a shocking $7 million BUILD grant for the South Midland project. Another recent example from March is the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) $2.2 million grant to restore the Hanging Lake Trail.
Had we not received a grant for the 27th Street Bridge, we would have been in a very difficult position, as the bridge was one of the worst-rated bridges in the state when we thankfully secured the grant funding to allow the construction to commence on a new bridge.
Since I’ve been on council, we so regularly receive notification of a new grant we’ve received that they’ve become normalized. However, they should instead be celebrated, as each dollar received in a grant is less of your local tax dollars needed for repairing, replacing and funding projects throughout the area. Each one of these grants is not given unless the laborious grant submittal process is completed in an often painstakingly detailed way. That means between city staff and our partners at Sustainable Strategies, hundreds of grants are applied for on our city’s behalf.
These trips and their associated travel cost are now an annual line item of $10,000 in our budget and have been historically attended by our current and past mayor as well as our city manager and city attorney. This year, I’ll be attending as well and hope to help build relationships with all our elected officials regardless of what political party they represent.
It’s often easier to find faults and inefficiencies in the government, and on a national level I may even agree with you. However, as a reminder in our small towns, your government is run by your neighbors, the parents of your children’s friends and even your former classmates. While never perfect, let’s stay positive for the sake of our town and the community we care so deeply about.
As always, any questions for me, connect directly with me. I’d love the opportunity to discuss concerns over coffee rather than reading your frustrations in a letter to the editor.
Ingrid Wussow is a sixth-generation local and a member of Glenwood Springs City Council, representing Ward 2.
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