Downtown Main Street Clean-Up Hits Snag

Council snubs funding request; wants business district to pursue other alternatives

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

In a big defeat for downtown business owners, the city of Woodland Park won’t spend any of its emergency reserves for cleaning up main street properties and public assets.

Instead, the city council wants to pursue other alternatives, such as getting the Colorado Department of Transportation to help pick up the $5,000-plus tab, or to turn the request over to the Main Street committee, or have private property owners handle the work themselves.   

This tough, “we don’t have any money” stand was pronounced at the close of  last week’s regular meeting, with elected leaders giving a funding request by Tanner Coy, the president of Tweeds Fine Furnishings, the thumbs-down.

Although no formal vote was taken, the council didn’t react positively to a letter submitted to the city council by Coy, and read publicly by Mayor Neil Levy. In fact the council even rejected the idea of placing the issue on its next regular meeting agenda. Their “no money” stand represented a continuation of a request made last month that prompted a near verbal shouting match, with the mayor telling Coy to “clean up your own building” and to repay the city for a $1 million loan taken out by Downtown Development Authority. (Coy serves as treasurer of the DDA and is one of their more vocal board members.)

This time, the council took the emotions out of the issue and maintained a more low-key, business-like attitude. But in a firm stand, advocated by most leaders, they argued the city isn’t in a financial position to help fund a main street power washing request, aimed at cleaning up the town’s assets downtown, such as sidewalks, lamp posts, benches, planters and storefronts.

This money had been allocated in the past. But according to City Manager David Buttery, the only way the city could participate in the joint funding effort this year was if the funds came from their emergency reserves.

That idea sparked much opposition by elected leaders during a brief discussion, at their June 1 session. “I am against spending this money,” said Councilman Paul Saunier, often regarded as one of the swing votes for issues dealing with downtown improvements. “I appreciate (Tanner) Coy for everything he does.”

No money available

But that said, he contended that downtown property owners needed to fund the program for cleaning up their storefronts. However, similar to his comments at a previous meeting, he urged the city to put pressure on the Colorado Department of Transportation to help assist the clean-up effort financially or through the use of their equipment.

“Emergency money should be spent on emergencies,” said Councilman Noel Sawyer.

“It is inappropriate,” added Mayor Pro Tem Carrol Harvey, in describing a proposal to spend  emergency funds. She suggested that the city was being ‘guilted’ into funding the program. Due to the budget restraints for this year, she noted that the city couldn’t fund the program for 2017. She also hinted that funds were previously proposed to be allocated in the budget of the Downtown Development Authority.

But like Saunier, she supported other alternatives to help the downtown business owners. “The business district is our main money maker,” said Harvey.

She was referring to Coy’s letter, which identified a clean downtown as paramount to protecting the city’s main private investment. “Please recognize the importance of maintaining our city’s most visible, most promoted, highest tax revenue-generating single area, our Main Street,” said Coy.

In his letter, he also noted that, “Maintaining a safe, clean and attractive central business district is a responsibility shared by Woodland Park citizens, and city of Woodland Park. So far, we together have been able to maintain a minimum acceptable level of cleanliness through coordinated but increasingly costly efforts.”

According to Coy, the total cost of the clean-up program is initially estimated at $10,000, of which he wanted the city to foot the bill for $5,000 and for allocating the necessary staff labor. The other option he proposed involved using the city’s storm drainage system or for city trucks and operators to “capture and dispose of the wastewater.”

But Buttery cited regulatory hurdles with this latter request, but agreed to review this situation further.

The council agreed that the clean-up project is a worthwhile venture.

“There might be another way to approach this,” said Councilman Val Carr, who serves on the Main Street board.

In any case, the plight of the plight of the downtown look has prompted big concerns. “Our downtown is filthy,” said Coy, during a previous meeting. “We have a real challenge.”

In a follow-up e-mail to Harvey, Coy thanked the council for reviewing the issue. At the same time, he stressed the importance of the joint project and cited the rising costs for the work, which he contends deals with mostly addressing public city property, due to new regulations.

“Tweeds (Fine Furnishings) used to subsidize the entire project, taking over the city’s practice of cleaning city property downtown. I have paid thousands of dollars over years past to clean City property, without complaint. It is the absurd regulation and manner of upholding it that precludes me from continuing to do so, as now the cost is $10k instead of $2k, and requires substantial work to pre-clean the sidewalks and gutters or the cost doubles.  We need the city to help or the work can’t be done,” stated Coy, in an e-mail addressed to Harvey.

 

He and other business owners have argued that the appearance of the downtown clashes with the city’s desire to attract more visitors and tourists to the area. In a follow-up e-mail, Coy also questioned if the city has other funds in its budget to help fund the project.