by Rick Langenberg:
Go for the gusto, develop a gem of a town hall and plan for the future. But be prepared to face hefty competition from other communities, some hard questions and much scrutiny.
That was the advice of Clay Brown, a regional manager of the state Division of Local Affairs (DOLA), in coaching Green Mountain Falls town leaders in how to develop successful plans for a $400,000-plus city hall and municipal government headquarters. Since Green Mountain Falls lost its historic turn-of-the-century town hall from a devastating arson fire in the winter of 2012, the small Ute Pass community has been operating out of a temporary space at the Joyland Church facility, on the west side of town. It also has formed a committee to research its options and has chosen a recommended one and a half-acre site next to the church. But with pending deadlines, the project now is entering a crucial stage that could determine whether it moves forward or not.
Brown, who has played a major role in resurrecting a number of small Colorado towns, such as Victor, expressed much optimism in the conceptual ideas for a new town hall and GMF’s prospects of snagging a substantial energy and mineral impact grant to facilitate the project. And if anything, he maintained that local officials may be trying to be a little too conservative in planning for their long-term needs. “I think your plan is great. I would build for the future,” said Brown during a presentation at last week’s regular board of trustees meeting. He urged town leaders not to get too hung up on doing a one-or two-story facility and to even consider adding a basement. “There will be a demand for space.”
He also made it clear that his agency will do what it can to assist Green Mountain Falls. “We are investing in your community to help you succeed,” said Brown. And because the town lost its previous city hall due to an arson fire, Brown believes GMF has a compelling case. “It presents a great opportunity,” he added, in touting a new town hall as a healing process for the community.
But that said, he cautioned town leaders they would face much competition and that timing is everything. As for what the state can’t do, he noted that monies obtained from DOLA can not be used for operational funds. Plus, he encouraged the town to possibly add more meeting space to their original plans, but stated that the state frowns on the town government leasing out space to other commercial entities. His pep talk raised a slew of questions from the trustees and the audience. Trustee Howard Price asked directly what type of risk the town posed to the state with GMF’s forthcoming grant application. Former trustee and mayor Dick Bratton asked about how much money GMF would have to pay in the form of matching dollars. Others leaders wanted to know more details about the time schedule they must work with.
Brown basically gave a positive prognosis of the town’s chances. “We have invested in practically every town hall (in the state),” said the DOLA regional manager, who once served as the city manager for Frisco. And when it comes to matching funds, Brown stated that DOLA asks for matches ranging between 25 and 50 percent of the total grant award.
In evaluating the town’s situation, he believes GMF is in a good position to do a $400,000-plus project, with considerable assistance from the state. “You lost a building. It is not going to be that big of an impact (for DOLA),” he said. The GMF government has about $200,000 of its own money from insurance and additional contributions to throw into the pot.
His advice definitely made an impact on town leaders. Shortly after Brown’s presentation last week, the trustees agreed to slightly upgrade their city hall project. In it request for proposals, the town is now considering a facility encompassing about 3,200 square feet, which is a third larger than what leaders originally sought. In preliminary meetings, an advisory committee formed to study the project estimated that the town needed close to 2,100-square feet.
The new town hall will mostly accommodate the marshal and clerk’s offices, a court room, meeting area, restrooms and additional amenities. Under one possible scenario, if the city does add an extra story, it could rent out part of the space, or even plan for future growth.
But now town leaders may consider a larger facility, if they can obtain additional grant funds. According to its proposed timetable, architectural bids for the town hall facility are now being solicited. Then a contract award will occur in late May. But the real critical deadline is Aug. 1. That’s when plans by a chosen architect and a formal grant request must be submitted to DOLA. If the new town hall plans progress, groundbreaking on the project could occur in 2014.
The project, though, has stirred mixed sentiments. Bratton, who has worked extensively as an architect, has been critical of the process, saying the trustees aren’t abiding by the bidding procedures used by professional architects. Some residents, meanwhile, question the high price tag and are wondering why the city is building such an expensive facility.