Cripple Creek Set to Finalize Contract With New City Boss This Week

Retail marijuana shops in the Creek? The consideration of allowing local cannabis outlets and grow centers as a possible source for additional revenue is one of the hot issues Cripple Creek leaders will address within the next few months. A former presentation is scheduled by the Cripple Creek Gaming Association on March 16 to evaluate more revenue sources for the city, including retail pot.

Retail Pot and  Device Fee Hikes  Highlight Key Forthcoming Issues

Rick Langenberg

The lengthy stint of Interim City Administrator Ray White In holding the town’s managerial reins may finally be reaching a conclusion.

This week, the city council is expected to finalize the employment contract with their new proposed head boss, Frank Salvato, who emerged as the clear favorite among finalists for the head administrative job.

Salvato is slated to begin his  new duties on March 7, if the contract moves forward  at Wednesday’s regular meeting.

As a result, White will soon be handing over the administrative ropes to Salvato, and March 16 could become his last meeting.

White, though, is a familiar face, and has now served as interim administrator on two extended occasions, when the city didn’t have a head manager.  His latest stint has extended since July 2020, and involved several extensions of his contract.

White expressed much confidence that he is leaving this post in good hands. “Frank (Salvato) just seemed like a feal good fit for us,” said the soon departing administrator. “We were very impressed.”

According to White, Salvato overwhelmingly emerged as the clear favorite during interviews with the three finalists in mid-February, conducted by the council and top officials.  White also cited questionnaire responses, completed by residents and staff members during a meet and greet forum, that gave Salvato the edge

The other two contenders for the job were Dicran Keuroglian and Lisa Parnell-Rowe. The KRW consulting firm coordinated the search for a city administrator, a pursuit that took many months.

The council earlier rejected the two top finalists for the job last summer, and then was forced to start from ground zero again, leading to the council’s decision to use the services of KRW.

White cited Salvato’s extensive experience as a city manager and other significant roles for nearly 40 years of government municipal  experience, working with both small and big communities, as the main factors for this decision by the council. Salvato worked for a number of communities in Texas, and grappled with a full range of challenges and issues, such as dealing with annexation efforts, overhauling planning and zoning regulations and overseeing an arson investigation.

White said the council also liked the fact  that he worked with a variety of different sized communities.

In addition, the new forthcoming city boss had an added advantage in that he could start right away. He and his wife have had property in Woodland Park and recently even purchased a home even closer to Cripple Creek.

Big City Issues For New Boss

White said he hopes to work with Salvato for a couple of weeks during the transition period. But he conceded that Salvato, if plans are finalized, will have “to hit the ground running,” as the city deals with some critical issues.

The city is scheduled to hear a major presentation by the Cripple Creek Gaming Association on ways to expand the city’s revenue sources. This meeting, scheduled for March 16, will focus on the hot topic  of opening the door for retail marijuana and cannabis grow operations in  Cripple Creek.

The association, and key gaming industry leaders, believe retail marijuana is a good way for the city to explore additional revenue sources, outside of gaming. They cite other struggling communities that resurrected their economy through legalizing marijuana. In an earlier informal presentation, a few gaming operators mentioned the town of Parachute as an example of a Colorado city that significantly rebounded from the arrival of retail marijuana.

Retail pot is available in the two other gaming communities in Colorado, Central City and Black Hawk.

White says the council remains open-minded about this possibility, but ultimately, he says such as important decision, will have to be decided by the citizens of Cripple Creek.

To date, no concrete plans have been presented by a potential cannabis operator.

“There are so many moving parts with this,” said White, who doesn’t see retail marijuana as a cure to the short-term fiscal challenges facing the city. Besides casting a possible tally on the possible arrival of retail marijuana on a limited scale, voters would have to decide on an increase in marijuana-related tax revenue.

Another idea being mulled by certain gaming leaders deals with forming a business improvement district.

The city is also preparing to soon move ahead with plans to raise the fess on betting devices assessed against gaming operators for the first time in three decades. With the COVID epidemic, the city has experienced a big reduction in gaming devices featured at local gaming establishments. The fees on these games represent the main funding tool for the city government.

This proposed increase, though, is opposed by the gaming association and by key industry officials.

They have vowed to work with the city to come up with a good solution to generate  more revenue. City officials, however, say that 30-plus years is a long time to go without any fee increases.

A workshop will be held on the betting device fee increase in March.