A sea change is underway in the leadership of our county and town. Two of the sitting members of the Board of County Commissioners are likely to be gone after the November election. Both Commissioner Lucero and Wadley voted in favor of building a new Justice Center along county owned property on Hot Springs Blvd. at the special meeting on September 19th. The preliminary cost estimates for a facility at that location are reported to be $28 million. Michael Whiting was the only County Commissioner to raise a concern about cost and how the local tax payers could be expected to vote in favor of such a huge expense. What economic reality were Commissioners Lucero and Wadley operating from? With the deteriorating county roads, future needs of the schools and many other financial priorities it is hard to understand the vote that took place. I expect the new Board of County Commissioners will be more responsive to the taxpayers and develop more creative and sensible solutions to the need for improved facilities for the county.
In the last forty five days, three new Town Council Members have been appointed. Matt deGraaf, Rebecca Anderson and Nicole DeMarco each bring a new and refreshing perspective to Town Council Meetings and governance. They take their positions seriously; they study the agenda packets, they ask intelligent questions and they look at the issues from more than one perspective.
The Town Council has many issues and tasks ahead of it. One of the topics sure to resurface soon is the Mayor’s plan to build a $7 million bridge to the Dawson and Mees undeveloped 27 acre parcel. This controversial proposal has been put on the back burner while the Town waits for completion of the Economic Impact Study it ordered. I am hopeful the newly seated members of the Town Council will take a very careful and critical review of the report.
I have continually monitored real estate activity in Southwest Colorado, including the average and median selling prices of homes and condominiums, and the rate of sales. I believe it is unlikely a reputable outside consulting firm will find our current market conditions will justify a large scale residential and commercial development, one that would require selling price ranges above $300 per square foot. It is equally doubtful to expect a national hotel chain to build a new hotel project while our present hotel occupancy rates remain below 40%. Mees and Dawson have not prepared a market feasibility study, an absorption rate projection or a construction cost estimate for their “development”, I doubt an outside consultant will able to find economic justification for a taxpayer investment of $7 million for a bridge to their land. How the Mayor and his friends Mees and Dawson could possibly spin things differently remains to be seen. With three news voices and votes on the Town Council, we all hope sensible, rational decisions and direction will prevail.