~ by Trevor Phipps ~
History may have been recorded politically in Cripple Creek.
For the first time in recent years, the city clerk swore in two newly-elected female council members. There have been women serving on the council before, but it is unsure when, or if ever, two females were sworn in at the same time. The new council makeup is much different than previous administrations.
On Dec. 5, newly elected council members Megan Rozell and Melissa “Missie” Trenary took the oath. The newly elected members then took a seat on the city council panel and got to participate in making decisions for the city for the first time since the Nov. 7 election was concluded. They have replaced Steve Zoellner and Milford Ashworth, who couldn’t run again due to term limits.
Despite a near standing-room-only crowd, the recent meeting was highlighted by discussions of mostly business items. In the wake of the 2017 election, the council approved the lodging tax ordinance that was drafted by the city attorney. On Nov. 7, Cripple Creek residents voted a resounding “yes” for a new proposed 6 percent lodging tax to be imposed within city limit. As a result, the council members officially had to vote in the ordinance, allowing the city to implement the levy on overnight, paid rooms, starting January 1, 2018.
New Production Company for the Butte
The council also addressed the changing of the guard with main production company for the Butte Theater. In 2018, the city will have a new production company doing shows at the Butte Theater. Last month, the Thin Air Theatre Company decided that the Christmas show would become their final production, as they couldn’t reach a final agreement with the Butte Theater board. This ended a decade-long running for the Thin Air Theatre Company in Cripple Creek.
The city has secured an arrangement with the Mountain Repertory Theatre (MRT) group, which will take over producing the melodrama and other shows in 2018. With the new production company, the live theatrical performances will continue in 2018, according to the Butte Theater board and city officials.
During the recent council meeting, a local resident voiced concerns about the city’s deal with the new production company. “The Butte Theater is a very, very important part of Cripple Creek and it’s important that the city support it,” the resident commented. During her speech the resident expressed some concerns with the fact that the city raised the lease for the new company.
The city allots a total of $280,000 to support the live shows at the Butte Theater.
At the end of the year the city gets $210,000 back from the production company’s ticket sales for the lease of the Butte Theater Building. In previous years the amount that the city got back was only $200,000 meaning an increase of the lease by $10,000.
One of the goals of the Butte Theater board has been to try to operate the shows in a more self-sufficient manner, with less financial support from the city.
On Dec. 5, the council also approved the recommendations of the community allocations funding. The Pioneers in Public Service group presented their recommendations to council regarding which local non-profits would receive city funding and how much each group would get. The Pioneers in Public Service group consists of a number of students of the Cripple Creek- Victor High School. The group of ten students met together as a board and determined how much each local non-profit would receive based on their applications. The council voted unanimously to accept the group’s recommendations for the city’s community allocation funds.
During the city administrator’s report, a couple of key items were announced. The city announced that the demolition process of the Cripple Creek Motel, which was burnt down in a fire, is moving along. The building is currently going through asbestos abatement. Once the abatement is finalized, the building’s demolition will begin. According to the city officials, Earth Works Excavating will begin the demolition of the old motel in January 2018.
City Administrator Ray DuBois also discussed the results of the state’s audit regarding Cripple Creek’s use of the historical preservation grant monies. The auditors determined that there was a large portion of the grant money the city used for expenses that do not fall into the typical categories of historical preservation.
According to the state audit, a large chunk of the money Cripple Creek receives from the state historic fund goes to things other than the preservation of historical buildings. According to DuBois, the portion of the money in question goes to fund such expenses as the operation of museums and the production of certain shows at the Butte Theater, which the city sees as contributing to historical preservation.
This audit is part of a scrutiny of funds used for preservation in all three gaming communities. Concerns have been raised by some lawmakers about whether the preservation guidelines, an important part of the campaign for limited stakes gaming, are being followed, especially in Black Hawk. But this audit applies also to Cripple Creek and Central City.
It is still unclear what action will occur following this report.