Salida City Council approves deal for temporary safe outdoor space at Centennial Park – by Ark Valley Voice staff
Temporary safe outdoor space approved for Centennial Park
After 75 minutes of public commentary From a full gallery to begin their regular meeting on May 17, Salida City Council worked through a packed agenda, twice extending the meeting time to nearly 9:40 p.m.
The penultimate item on the agenda Resolution 2022-22, unanimously approved a modified agreement with the non-profit group “Bringing Everyone Through The Crisis of Housing” (BETCH). The deal, which has been described as a ‘trial’, aims to respond to ‘a local housing emergency’, according to council and staff. It aims to support seasonal workers employed locally, but without housing, serving the retail and restaurant businesses on which Salida depends for 83% of her sales tax revenue.
The program, which will run from June 1 to October 31, 2022, reserves spaces for up to 15 vehicles at a 24/7 hosted site at the northwest end of Centennial Park, behind the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center (SHSAC).
Selected applicants working a minimum of 20 hours per week will pay a daily fee of $10 to spend their off hours (with licensed vaccinated animals), inside their vehicles and using SHSAC bathrooms and showers.
This aspect of the housing crisis was first discussed at the end of last year and has been on the agenda of working sessions and Salida Council meetings several times since, representatives of the BETCH group attending each meeting. One site after another was considered and then abandoned, as the clock ticked towards the summer tourist season (visitors are already arriving).
Initially, city-owned land in the old rail yards was requested as having the closest space available. But Union Pacific Railroad’s terms of purchase prohibit any use other than open space.
Although more remote, the Chaffee County Fairgrounds also looked promising, but the city was unable to obtain approval from the City of Poncha Springs for its use. This led to the “Boneyards” of Marvin Park being considered beyond baseball diamonds. But the costs of providing services on wasteland were deemed too high. Finally (and only a few weeks ago), the largely ready-to-use Centennial Park site (in the area formerly devoted to recycling) became the most viable.
Although the subject was written in Voice of the Valley of the Ark for months and with council discussions still available in real time and on YouTube, some neighbors on Holman Avenue, K and L streets expressed that they felt caught off guard. With the park selection only finalized two weeks ago and only one BETCH outreach meeting held, opponents of the project were clearly frustrated.
They mentioned the need for the project, but since they felt Centennial Park was mostly used by families and children, they said they felt it was not an appropriate location. In retrospect, a notification sent by the city to neighbors (like those used for zoning matters) might have been desirable. But with BETCH volunteers, city staff, and council members all working full-time on city business as well as an operating agreement with BETCH, even an 11-hour mailout would be a challenge.
BETCH supporters, the mayor and members of council all encouraged the public to join the community watch group who will be trained to help ensure the project starts off on the right note and stays that way. The concept is to collect feedback from residents and be closely monitored by BETCH to help these workers be good neighbors in the neighborhood as well.
The project was described by an elected official as “a good faith agreement” on the part of BETCH, the city and the expected workers. According to Bill Almquist, director of community development and planning at Salida, it will likely need to be refined as everyone moves along a learning curve.
More public commentary on F Street Plaza, performance stage
Two other topics were high on the public comment agenda: First Street business owners said their foot traffic was suffering from all the attention to the F Street pedestrian plaza. Sarah Briam said asked for signage, maps and beautification of First Street. Lisa Wilborn agrees with Briam, saying there is a need for signage. She showed a mockup of a QR code for a poster that said “Scan the QR code to get a map,” showing all the businesses in the area.
The second topic, which gained popularity with several speakers, was a request for financial support to create a community performance stage in front of Natural Grocers on F Street for the Summer Plaza. Hannah Michaels asked for $10,000 to $15,000 in city support and mentioned the sudden passing of “Magic Steve” Kucera. At the end of the evening, during reports from council members, the stage idea was brought up by Justin Critelli and seconded by Harald Kasper, in a motion directing Arts and Culture Division staff to review the idea and bring a proposal back to the Board. If approved, it has been suggested that it be named “The Magic Steve” Kucera’ Stage in honor of Kucera.
Other action items
Order 2022-08 received a final reading and public hearing for the minor subdivision of Green Heart LLC at 535 West Seventh Street. He faced no opposition and was adopted.
the Full Annual Financial Report 2021 was presented by Matt Miller, Senior Partner at audit firm McMahan & Associates. The city received an “unqualified” audit opinion, including the one (special) audit required when the city received significant federal funds from the ARP. The report, accepted by council (and once signed by the mayor) will go to the Government Finance Officers Association for consideration for an award of excellence, which will be judged at the end of the year.
After a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Aimee Tihonovich, Resolution 2022-19 proposed a budget amendment for 2022. After a public hearing, the amendment was passed unanimously. Finally, on financial matters, council heard from Salida Fire Chief Doug Bess, who presented a recommendation from the panel evaluating responses to the design-build project for the new Salida Fire Station. The firm Neenan Archistruction was chosen from five bidders and the negotiated contract will now be signed so that the design work can begin.
The request to modify the planned development of Salida Crossings for the extension of the schedule continued until June 7, 2022.
After brief reports from council members and the mayor, Treasurer Bergin reported that total sales taxes from March 2022 increased by 7% from March 2021, with the majority of the increase coming from building services. accommodation and catering. Summer visitors to the state may again find Salida to be a cheap destination, given soaring airline and hotel prices. Bergin noted that retail sales taxes were virtually unchanged year-over-year for March, possibly reflecting inflationary food and fuel pressures on consumer budgets. However, he indicated that they were larger than in February 2022.