By Beth Dodd
The City of Victor is reinventing itself. In an impressive turnabout, the town has gone from considering turning off the street lights in 2009, to attracting new businesses in 2012. Their success is thanks to a mix of support from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, economic stimulus money, CC&V Mine contributions, improved budgeting and management by the city government, and cooperation from city residents.
The recent changes in Victor began with help from DOLA. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, is a state agency that partners with local governments by providing them with funding and technical advice for community development. Typical DOLA projects include things like improvements to public facilities, transportation infrastructure, and water and sewer systems.
Clay Brown, a grant advisor for DOLA, has been a great support to the Victor community. In 2010, he helped them create a Community Revitalization Plan. One result was the hiring of an OSM/VISTA worker, Becky Parham. VISTA is like a domestic version of the Peace Corps, and part of Americorps. Parham’s position is being funded by a creative three-way partnership with the City of Victor, the non-profit Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), and the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM).
Parham, a Victor native with a background in assisting underserved populations in Teller County, is coordinating the Victor DREAM Project, the Downtown Revitalization Economic Acceleration Movement. This consists of four committees working under the umbrella of the Victor city council to improve life in the City of Mines. The participants represent the citizens, businesses, and government of Victor. They held quarterly meetings in 2011, and then evaluated their progress in early 2012.
There has been plenty of progress to evaluate. For example, new sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and storm drains were completed in downtown Victor in late September. This has greatly improved business access and drainage. Victor’s streets will no longer be inundated with rivers of water, gravel, and mud during summer storms.
The street improvements were paid for by a Community Development Block Grant written by Brown. The CDBG Grants are a distribution method for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Obama’s economic stimulus. A second grant application has been submitted to extend the street improvements to other parts of the city.
Other changes in Victor, paid for by the city and the CC&V Mine, include new electric water meters and new natural gas lines. An old mill building near town has been converted into an amphitheater. The roadside parking across from city hall has an attractive new brick and board fence. In late January, the city hall got much-needed telephone and computer system upgrades. A new logo for the City of Victor has been designed and soon they will also have their own website. Their current website is outsourced.
Several other major projects are in the works. One is the repair of Victor’s aging sewer system. The city sewer lines have been cleaned and explored with cameras. Damage found by the cameras will be repaired this spring. Wherever possible, a new corrective liner will be slipped inside the old sewer to fix it without digging. A few sections of the original clay pipe need to be completely replaced. In addition, the city’s sewer plant will be upgraded with a bigger water storage vault. The new vault will store large volumes of waste water until it can be pumped into the waste treatment system and will prevent flooding it. This will also allow for new sewer lines as the town grows.
The most exciting project, however, is the proposed Third Street Plaza. The DREAM Team has created a concept plan to convert a vacant lot into a public gathering space. The new plaza will have off-street parking, a stage, a projection wall, a bus stop, hiking trail connections, and tranquil landscaping. Possible uses for the space include street festivals, a farmers market, and outdoor movies. The next phase of the project will be the engineering. Special concerns include the stabilization of an old wall on the back of the lot. It will be restored to lend historic charm to the new plaza.
That’s not all. The DREAM Team is working on building façade improvements with architect, Tom Lacedo. He is donating his time to create computer images of new paint colors on buildings to help owners picture how they will look after a facelift(renovation?). Work has begun on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan to identify the recreation needs of the town and plan improvements to local parks. Directional signs in and around Victor will also be upgraded. A consultant has been selected and hired to create a comprehensive way-finding plan.
“The whole thing has had a snowball effect,” said Victor mayor, Bud Hakes, about the DREAM Project. “Everyone is working on it, both the city government and the citizens.”
Back in 2009, the city of Victor was struggling financially. Shortfalls in the budget were caused by a loss of state gaming grant funds after state tax revenues fell in 2008. The city had to lay off a maintenance worker and a police dispatcher. They were considering turning off the street lights. City council meetings were often difficult and dramatic, as residents debated solutions to the city’s woes.
By 2010, some of the lost state revenues had been reinstated. Victor was able to rehire one worker, and is now sharing police dispatching with the City of Cripple Creek. New revenues from the gold mine have also helped. Victor and the CC&V Mine renegotiated the mine’s water contract, which resulted in more money paid to the city. Sales tax revenues on supplies purchased by the mine have increased, part of which comes back to Victor. In addition, the Mine has also supported the town with charitable contributions.
The same year, Clay Brown from DOLA, arrived on the scene. He mentored the City of Victor in proper budgeting and financial tracking. The city also changed its management style from top down direction of the city’s day-to-day activities by the city council to delegating duties to appointed department heads. Both of these moves have resulted in more effective and efficient government. The city council meetings are much quieter now with people working together to create the community they want to live in.
Local entrepreneurs are taking notice of Victor’s hopeful atmosphere. Within the past year, several new businesses have started in this small town; a five & dime store called the Marigold Mercantile at 120 S. Third Street, the new Victor Laundromat at 106 S. Fourth Street, and the Gold Camp Bakery at 104 S. Third Street. A new brewery and apartments are coming soon.