Woodland Park gearing up for business rebound

The worst of the region’s economic storm may have reared its ugly head for the last time.

At least that’s the hope of Woodland Park elected leaders, who are quite bullish over the latest release of recent city sales tax figures. These numbers, according to officials, have indicated that the town’s retail core may be heading for better times, or is climbing out of a lengthy recession.

In fact, some leaders thought they were witnessing a mirage.

“I had to read this several times,” quipped Councilman David Turley, in discussing the latest report. In the past, city leaders have referred to sales tax figures as the true test for whether the local government may have to incur more cuts to brace itself for tougher times.

According to City Manager David Buttery, the final month of 2010 ended on an extremely positive note, with sales tax numbers experiencing a 19.7 percent hike from the same period a year ago. “We are finishing 2010 very strong,” said Buttery.

Woodland Park Mayor Steve Randolph echoed similar sentiments, noting that the local economy is faring better than national trends.

With this final surge in positive numbers, Woodland Park ended the year with a 4.5 percent hike in sales tax revenue from 2009. Although that figure may sound good, Buttery cautioned that it’s not any reason to celebrate too much. “You have to remember that 2009 was an extremely bad year,” said Buttery.

More importantly, the 2010 year ended slightly better than 2008, which was one of the better “benchmark” years from a sales tax volume. That was the first complete, post-Wal-Mart year for the city of Woodland Park.

Buttery attributes the latest robust figures to a resurgence in consumer confidence and an increase in visitors in Woodland Park. Plus, he concedes that last summer’s major hail storm, which created thousands of dollars in damage for local residences and city properties and spurred much construction work, played a role in these higher numbers. The city also recorded a hefty increase in lodging tax revenue.

And for the first time in several years, city leaders hope they are seeing a genuine increase in business, rather than just a shift in local shopping patterns. With the arrival of the Wal-Mart, coupled with a national recession, Woodland Park experienced more of a transferring of shopping from one local to another. But with the addition of several new businesses last year, officials see that pattern changing.

Some city leaders also attribute the increase in activities and events as an added factor

Arctic spell shuts down businesses, cripples water lines

A surprising cold front, which greeted residents with temperatures that neared minus-30 in the early morning hours last week, posed major challenges for local residents and area businesses.

“It was very cold,” said Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray White. The mercury dropped to a low of minus-28 in the district early last week.

Luckily, the latest Arctic invasion didn’t feature any additional winds that could have created a disaster.

According to White, the near-record cold led to a bevy of frozen pipes for residential sections of Cripple Creek and a slew of problems for the local police station. The police station, which occupies the historic Bell Brothers building, encountered water problems in sections of the facility due to the weather.

The town’s historic structures encountered a losing battle in their tussle with Mother Nature, with many homeowners discovering frozen pipes.

“We have been very busy,” said White, who reported a hectic period for city infrastructure crews.

Some casinos had problems, but most commercial businesses in the district appeared to fare better “It is going to be a busy time for plumbers,” said Cripple Creek Police Chief Gary Hamilton. The police chief said this represented the biggest record cold in several years.

And for other parts of the county, the Arctic spell, which lasted for nearly three days, forced some businesses to completely shut down. And those that did stay open, such as certain restaurants, they faced the prospects of virtually no customers.

To make matters worse, a significant power outage occurred in parts of Woodland Park and Divide Tuesday evening, when an IREA (Intermountain Rural Electric Association) electric transformer went out. Emergency Service officials were put on alert. However, the problem was corrected and power resumed about an hour later.

Despite the Arctic spell, no serious injuries were reported. And compared to storms that paralyzed the Midwest and other parts of the country, Teller County didn’t fare too bad.