Guest opinion: Summer market grant requests raise questions | PostIndependent.com

Guest opinion: Summer market grant requests raise questions

Julia Larson

Kevin O'Brien from New Castle shops last summer at the Glenwood Springs Downtown Market.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

In the interest of full disclosure, I have had the pleasure of being on the Glenwood’s Downtown Market board for a few years. This article is being written primarily to allow members of the community insight into what this volunteer organization has brought to Glenwood Springs.

For the past 12 summers Glenwood’s Downtown Market has provided an event where the community could meet and enjoy the vibrant energy surrounding this local event. It has been an event that is truly run by the community: The funds were raised by vendor fees and sponsorships from local businesses who believed in this event.

Without the local sponsors, the market would not have been able to continue. Their support and commitment to the market allowed us to have money to pay park fees, licenses, insurance, labor through Feed My Sheep, bands and more. Additionally, if the community did not see value in this event, our vendors would not make the effort to attend, and again, we would not have been able to continue running the market.

As no salaries are being paid, all of the money raised was in some way put back into this community. Money filtered into the city through additional events or through sales tax paid by the vendors, which helps support our city.

Our volunteer hours spent on grants (writing, tracking, recording and submitting) allowed us to double up on food stamps and, recently, WIC coupons. This helped us provide those participating in these programs more healthy food without having to foot additional cost. We also provide an opportunity to local nonprofits to set up for free for one Tuesday and talk to community members about what they do for our valley.

While I am truly grateful to Roaring Fork Events for running a market this summer, please be aware that they are not volunteers — this is their for-profit, business.

That being said, there is a seemingly ethical question that needs to be raised regarding how funding is being obtained for this new version of the Downtown Market. Our city manager has requested a total of $20,000 from city funds — $10,000 (the max) from both the Discretionary Grant and the Tourism Promotion Grant. My concern lies with the unavoidable conflict of interests in this request.

Is this ethical? Is the city not paying itself? How would the city monitor these funds if approved? Will Roaring Fork Events get the complete sum of this? If so, how much of our city funding, pulled from taxes we pay, is going to their salaries? What other well-established local group, is going to be denied funds if these two applications are accepted?

To be clear, it is absolutely not my intention to sabotage Roaring Fork Events, or to question the integrity of our city manager, but it is absolutely my intention to question the nature of this funding request. If Roaring Fork Events had requested the funding it would be understandable. Why is the city involved?

If you wish to confirm the information provided here regarding the funding request, please feel free to look at the applications at http://www.ci.glenwood-springs.co.us/, click the Settings icon (looks like a gear near the top right), select documents, click the Finance Folder and Financial Advisory Board sub-folder and select the respective grant sub-folders. The documents of interest are “COGS discretionary grant app – Market” and “City of GS – Market.”

In closing, what I really wish to say is thank you. Thank you to the community for supporting us through the years, to the past and present board members. Thank you to the businesses and vendors who made this market as unique and great as this valley, and to each of you for seeing value in this truly wonderful event. We hope to see you all next year.