by Rick Langenberg
More than two years ago, Green Mountain Falls lost a historic town hall due to a devastating arson fire. The Ute Pass community will now finally break ground on an impressive $800,000 facility that will far surpass what it had in the past.
The project will provide more than double the space the town government occupied in its previous 19th century facility in the back of the post office, and should be completed in August.
That’s good news for the town of Green Mountain Falls, which has been using a temporary one-room headquarters at the Joyland Church building since the winter of 2012. And attendees at council gatherings may no longer have to stand in a cramped space to attend regular forums, which have attracted the largest crowds for government meetings in the Ute Pass area.
Public Works Director Robert McArthur, the leading candidate to become the new town manager of GMF, recently told the trustees that it was successful in snagging a $500,000 grant for the project. That grant, coupled with other monies donated to the town and obtained from insurance funds, will give the town a green light to construct a much larger facility than many anticipated. At a meeting in early December McArthur said, “We are going to build this.” He estimated that Green Mountain Falls is now developing an $800,000 project. “This is good news.” He added.
However, more details need to be worked out such as the real estate closing on the property. The town hall site is located in an area adjacent to Joyland, known as the Elk Crossing. Also, part of the plans call for a headquarters for the marshal’s office. But the town no longer has a marshal and is contracting out these services with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. It’s unclear if part of the new town hall will serve as a Ute Pass substation for the sheriff’s office.
Original plans submitted last summer called for 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, the city could rent out part of the space, or even plan for future growth.
The awarding of the grant isn’t surprising.
Clay Brown, the regional manager of the state Division of Local Affairs, told leaders last summer to go for the gusto in applying for a grant and not to be afraid to plan for future growth. Plus, he reassured leaders that because the town lost its town hall due to a devastating fire, its application had a good chance of being viewed favorably. “We are investing in your community to help you succeed,” said Brown, when addressing the trustees last summer.
Moreover, Brown described building a new town hall as a healing process for the community.
At the same time, he cautioned that the town would face much competition from other communities in Colorado. He advised town leaders that timing is everything, when it comes to seeking these types of awards.
During its most recent meeting, McArthur credited Rob Seever, who has been the head architect in the project, for helping to close the deal.
Reaction to the new town hall facility has been mixed. The trustees and local planners have expressed much elation over the grant award. In fact, the new town hall project is one of the few issues that the current board has unanimously supported.
However, some residents believe that the town is overreaching and is trying to build a “Taj Mahal” facility. They are questioning the high price tag.