Why subsidize the NRC?

For past information about the NRC, please go here.

Why does the city need to subsidize the NRC with hundreds of thousands of dollars? Whenever the NRC was discussed, even as recently as the end of July, there were loud denunciations every time I suggested that the NRC would be subsidized by the City. Administrator Lewis clearly told a member of the public at a city council meeting that the city would not and could not give the NRC its utility lines for free, and that the city would not subsidize the NRC. Various members of the council have echoed this position. Now we find out that the city is doing exactly what it said it would not do.

The city is giving the NRC hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidy. The city is giving the NRC land that the NRC will sell to raise money. The city could sell that land and put the money into the general fund, but instead will just give to the NRC. According to Jack Lewis the NRC will sell the land and use the money to pay for the water and sewer lines to the property. No numbers have been released, but 15 acres in the city of Salida has to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There has been no discussion of why and how the financials of the 6320 have deteriorated so badly and so quickly. What was unthinkable just weeks ago – a direct subsidy to the NRC by the city – is now such a given that there is no discussion of it. What went wrong? Were the financials screwed up in the first place, and we just figured it out? Did something terrible happen in the last few weeks? Was this the plan all along?

The trouble with this subsidy is the way it is being done. We aren’t told how much it is. It is not going through the regular process for people who want money from the city. There are many projects and organizations that provide services to the citizens and businesses of Salida, and they often look to the City for monetary help: Neighbor to Neighbor, the Chaffee Housing Trust, the People’s Clinic, the community center, SBA, even the airport. All of these organizations could use 15 acres of city land to sell to raise money for their worthy endeavours. They are instead forced to compete with each other and with the normal and regular operations of the city for a finite amount of money through the regular public budgeting process. And from experience, I can tell you there is often a great deal of scrutiny of the organizations, their budgets and plans, and a weighing of the benefit of the service they provide.

Not so the NRC – which is given hundreds of thousands of dollars with no questions asked and no discussion, so far, of why it is suddenly necessary to provide a subsidy to a project we were told would not need one. No discussion of an amount. No weighing of the benefits, if any, provided to the citizens of the city. No comparison of what else might be done with that money. No balancing against the identified need for new police cars, fire trucks or infrastructure improvements.

Everyone who is in a position to know is silent on the sudden and desperate need for a subsidy to make the NRC a viable project. The only way to even try to get an answer is through the city council.

Is anyone willing to show up on September 13 and ask why we should subsidize the NRC in this way, or what happened to make the subsidy necessary? Is the NRC willing to at least have open meetings and open books in exchange for the subsidy, or will they continue to operate in the back room? I guess we will find out onTuesday (Sept 13, see below).

Salida City Council meetings are held at 6:00 PM on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month in the Touber Building at 448 E. 1st Street. -Cit Team

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

30 Responses to “Why subsidize the NRC?”

  1. Jane Whitmer

    Thank you, Bill! This sounds, feels, tastes, and particularly smells bad! I teach Tuesday night but will try to get some other folks there.

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  2. Mary Ann Bavaria

    Thanks Bill for helping to see thru this quagmire. The recent inclusion of a private entity complicates the whole project. And is council really getting recommendations from an attorney who is accumulating hours for which he will only be reimbursed if this project is approved?
    See you Tuesday.

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  3. Dave Armstrong

    Does NRC have two 'meanings'? Natural Resources Corporation and Natural Resources Center? As attempts to clarify the situation, shed light on intent and action, the definition and words used are important for understanding. At the end of the day the efficient and effective use of public funds and creation of more jobs/financial capacity in Salida are critical results to be achieved.

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  4. tom jacobson

    I still am wondering what economic benefit the Resource Center is going to provide the city and citizens of Salida. Additionally, it is remarkable that the city intends to transfer the entire Vandaveer Ranch to the 6320. Does that not mean that the 6320 or their banker will control all future development? We spent a couple of years and a lot of energy soliciting public input over the future development of this property and now it appears that the current council has totally blown off that input. Worse yet, the current process has been incredibly "non-transparent".

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  5. Bill Smith

    Dave:

    To be clear - the Natural Resources Center is owned entirely by the Natural Resources Corporation, so the distinction between the two is is largely semantic.

    I agree with you completely that the efficient and effective use of public funds is critical. I also agree that job creation is essential to the future of Salida.

    As currently proposed, I believe that the NRC (both the center and the Corp) consists solely of the building containing the Forest Service and nothing else and the Forest Service is not proposing additional FTEs because of the new building. If there are other agencies who are committed to the project - I am unaware of them. Of course, how would I know?

    Bill

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  6. cory

    Regardless of the issue, I feel that the tone and clarity of any discussion, as well as a citizen's understanding of their role in our republic dictates whether issues will be dealt with in a civil and productive manner or a finger pointing, accusitory, stalemate.

    A few things that might help your cause:
    1) Take Action! Instead of asking others to go to the city council meeting to ask, "why we should subsidize the NRC?", you should go yourself. If it matters to you, then act. Simply complaining gets you nowhere.

    2) Avoid overgeneralizations...it only weakens your position when they are proven wrong...
    "There has been no discussion of why and how the financials of the 6320 have deteriorated so badly and so quickly..."
    "Not so the NRC – which is given hundreds of thousands of dollars with no questions asked and no discussion..."

    3) Be clear... Your position fails to clarify if the city is giving the NRC money, or land, or both and leaves me questioning your representation of the "facts".

    I'm not sure how I feel about this issue, but if you want to influence me into supporting your side in a public forum, do so in a responsible, clear, concise, and civil manner...we don't want to have to change our name to Salida D.C.

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  7. Bill Donavan

    Cory, thanks for writing. I think the only way in which Mr. Smith is trying to influence you is to help you understand that, in his experience, the issues appear to be cloudy. I'm aware that Mr. Smith has already spoken directly with the folks involved with the NRC. So, looking into available information, asking questions, then writing an open letter explaining his experience to the community would seem to be positive. Personally, I appreciate the editorial, and the fact that he uses his full name. (However, I believe his middle name is Cajones). Whether you agree with his positions on issues or not, and he and I don't always agree —he has an earnest goal of moving the community forward with transparency and community involvement.

    One of the primary goals of the Citizen is to offer an open forum for educating the community on local issues. Conversely, any of the people involved with the NRC can use this forum to respond and clarify the issues.

    Now, if we can get back on topic, we have had offline inquiries requesting a response from Jack Lewis.

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  8. Robin

    If someone will please refresh me, factually? The land that the new hospital sits on...who owned it before the hospital? Was there a purchase price for this land? Has the hospital since sold portions of this land for profit? Was there a land trade involved with the hospital land? Thank you.

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  9. tom jacobson

    Robin,
    From what I recall is that the city gave the hospital 13 acres. The hospital then purchased at least an additonal 12 acres at what seemed to be below market price. And yes I think the hospital has either sold or leased some of that land to doctors who have moved their offices to the hospital campus. During that process there was discussion that the council was "giving away" public property without substantial public input.

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  10. Steve Stewart

    I’m just a regular guy but I play a Councilman on TV...
    I believe the City administrator said that the City could not give the NRC water and sewer lines because both water and sewer are operated as enterprise funds. Those water and sewer lines have to be paid for – that is the case for every new use of water, e.g., a new bathroom at a public park would require that the City pay the tap fee for water service. The tap fee cannot be waived. That said, you are correct that the city is – and has been all along – subsidizing the NRC at some level, albeit with land that has about zero opportunity cost at this point in time. (As an aside, the City has given no money to the NRC, however some staff time for Dara McDonald and Jack Lewis has been committed to the City’s goal of making the NRC a reality). Of course the main NRC building (to be occupied by USFS) will be paid for by the USFS through leases and will revert back to the City in 20 years. At that point, we will have a state of the art building (well, by 2011 standards anyway) that will have been well-maintained (significant maintenance is built into the lease payments) that should have many years of useful and financially lucrative life left in it.

    “There has been no discussion of why and how the financials of the 6320 have deteriorated so badly and so quickly.” On the contrary, there has been much discussion including an hour’s worth at the last (9/6) City Council meeting. I would not characterize it as having deteriorated badly and quickly. As you know two of the three agencies that had expressed significant interest are now one agency and that one agency, while still interested, is unable to commit at this point in time. With the joint Parks/Wildlife unable to commit (yet?), the project is not feasible without another entity to share the costs of utilities. Enter Pinto Barn. This is a fantastic, timely and fitting addition to the NRC. As I understand it, participation in the NRC by private parties has always been in the plans, even though it was not part of most of the discussion of the Natural Resource Center as including USFS, CO State Parks and CO Division of Wildlife. It should be noted that these utility lines should make development on the remaining acreage much more attractive for other future uses of the property as well.

    “No discussion of an amount.” You don’t know how much it is because we don’t yet know exactly how much it is; the land is being appraised as we speak.

    A note on Tom’s comment…Yes, it is true that the Council is considering transferring the entire acreage to the NRC but that is subject to a “release schedule” that is part of the mortgage contract. Forgive me if I’m not 100% accurate here – writing without the benefit of my packet in front of me. In approximately 6 years the 150 or so acres that are not part of the NRC will revert back to the City. That of course depends on the how the value of the improved land changes over time. The City can transfer any part of that land at any time with the proviso that the proceeds first go towards the loan principle until the loan hits 75% loan to value. After that all proceeds would go back to the City. And the 6 year time frame I mentioned is when the loan is estimated to hit 75% LTV based just on lease payments received from USFS alone. The bank will not control the future development of the land.

    There are some built in safeties too…
    Keep in mind that as of late Spring two City Council members will be part of the Board of the NRC. That has already helped with transparency in my mind. The NRC can make no decision about the disposition of the land without Council's approval. The City Council can change the composition of the NRC board at any point in time.

    Just to be clear, regular Council meetings are on the first and third Tuesdays at 6pm. Work sessions are at 8:30 am – public invited and encouraged to attend. BUT THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE WILL BE PART OF A SPECIAL MEETING TUESDAY SEPT 13 at 6pm.

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  11. M Brown

    Previous Salida Citizen Posts on the NRC:

    http://salidacitizen.com/2011/03/salida-citizens-curious-about-63-20/

    http://salidacitizen.com/2011/03/jack-lewis-answers-questions/

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  12. Bill Smith

    Steve:

    I want to respond to a couple of points you made.

    I agree that the Pinto Barn is a cool Project and I hope and expect it to be a huge success. But it really has nothing to do with the NRC other than providing money. The Pinto Barn does not need the city to make its project a reality. The city needs Pinto Barn to make the NRC work. (I guess that is not entirely true - we could just give the 63-20 more money.) The benefits of Pinto Barn will accrue to the area regardless of the future of the NRC. The city could just sell the 15 acres to Pinto Barn and keep the money instead of giving to the 63-20.

    Then one of the private entities who wanted to build the Forest Service Building could do so. The city would have more money, and the Vandeveer land would not be put at risk. There is no transparency problem with the 63-20 because it is not needed, and everything that the 63-20 is planning at this point is done by the private sector.

    Regarding the subsidy to the 6320. It was known all along that the city would be subsidizing the 63-20 with staff time and the use of the land for the period of the loan. What was never discussed before last week was the idea that the city would give the NRC land to sell to subsidize it operations. This is clearly evident because you are passing a resolution tonite to give the 63-20 the ability to sell city land. If it was contemplated all along it would/should have been included in the original document. I was rounded yelled down at a meeting when I suggested that the 63-20 could sell off all of vandeveer if they wanted to. Now according to the Mountain Mail, Jack Lewis is suggesting exactly that.

    I am sure you will recall our discussions regarding the community center lease. The center was asking the city to subsidize its insurance payments on the center to the tune of $800 a year. You and others from the city made clear that any subsidy for a few citizens would have to be weighed against the greater good of all the citizens at a public meeting. We provided financials and attended hearings, you met with the Board and expressed concerns. All for $800. We had public meetings to discuss the matter.

    I haven't seen that meeting - where the benefits of the current plan (build a space for the Forest Service) are discussed and the costs in terms of subsidy are weighed against the other things that could be done with the money.

    Keep in mind - I am operating from a belief that the citizens of Salida paid 2.2 million for the Vandeveer property and were promised that the money would be paid back when the land was sold. Now the land is being sold and the money is being used to subsidize a project that would happily, and without subsidy, be done by the private sector.

    Here are some questions I have not seen discussed.

    One interesting point is how the city council could possibly weigh the cost of the subsidy against the greater good of all the citizens if you don't know the cost?

    If you don't have an appraisal for the land yet, why the hurry? Why do you need to have a special meeting if the deal might not go through? Why not wait until you know the numbers and the public has had a chance to examine them?

    Is there any limit on how much land the 63-20 can sell to finance itself?

    Is there any reason why the 63-20 cannot operate with open meetings and open books?

    The 63-20 at this point is just building a space for the Forest Service. Isn't this exactly what many private entities were willing to do, but without a subsidy?

    Subdividing the land has never been discussed previously. Do the 63-20 financials include money for all the requirements that come with subdividing? i.e. sidewalks, fees in lieu, curb and gutter, street lights, CDOT access? Are they going to have to sell more land to pay for these?

    Regarding the subdivision, since it has never been mentioned before and the city is now approving it in its resolution, does the planning and zoning commission have any roll here?

    According to Jack Lewis the 63-20 does have a contract with Pinto Barn for the land. Does the contract set a price? Do the citizens of Salida, in your opinion, have a right to know the price before the land is sold?

    I think that last one is probably the most important.

    Thanks for the discussion. I hope we can have more in the future.

    Bill

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  13. Mary Ann Bavaria

    Steve, thanks for your comments. Can you tell me how much of the 35+ acres already deeded to Salida NRC will be for government bldgs?

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  14. Scott Damman

    Greetings,

    As someone who sat on the council for a while, I am really enjoying several posts on this topic. Cory and Bill are both right. As I see it, here is a major problem with information dissemination.

    The comments made above by Steve Stewart have been reiterated many many times. That said..........

    Salida is way to small of a town to have a PIO or Public Information Officer or whatever you cant to call it. People are relying on the Mountain Mail and random citizen posting here for information. The Mountain Mail reporters see things as fit to print from only that persons view. It has been my experience that what the reporter found interesting or important, was pretty mundane. I have only piped up a couple a times to them to "make sure" that the reporter "knew" what was important. But that seemed a little, I don't know, undemocratic?

    That leaves people with a few options. Watch it on TV, yeah I know, I didn't have cable either. Come to the meetings or work sessions. I get it, you have job, kids- etc. Talk to your council person, my experience was that Bill Smith was the only one who regularly did this with me. You can also hear "stuff" on the street. Usually wrong, think gossip.

    If you can't make the meeting, watch it on TV or read it in the paper, what can you do? You can trust that 7 elected people for your city are not all drinking the kool aid. If one person at a meeting stands up and says, " hey everybody, this is way out there", THAT might get printed.

    I can assure you that the members of YOUR city council are VERY aware that they are making decisions for 5000 people and that those decisions are not taking lightly. They are very clearly aware that the decision that is made, will stand for a very long time.

    The elected officials would be totally jazzed if more than 3 people showed up for a meeting, and not the same 3 every time. Ask the questions that are important to you. In the first 5 mins of every meeting is citizen participation. Get involved and get into it, it is after all, your town.

    Regrads,

    Scott Damman
    Telchac Mexico ;)

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  15. Jan Sebastian

    The question of how the cotizens fo Salida stand to benefit from the NRC has been raised. We are told that the NRC property will be returned to the public in twenty years A dubious benefit at best. Perhaps we need to know who does benefit.

    The lawer who reportedly was paid around two hundred thousand last year by the city and will be paid an unspecified amount if this thing goees through? The board of the NRC? it seams they all stand to benefit in some way or another.

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  16. Monika Griesenbeck

    Councilman Stewart might at least acknowledge that those "public" early morning workday meetings are not easy for working people to attend.
    Apparently these morning meetings were former councilman Hugh Young's idea who recently told me that the council needed a less formal (as in less public?) setting while discussing issues. I'm sure this is true. Public scutiny can be very uncomfortable. Who wants to risk looking foolish or god forbid offending someone?
    But the public's business should be conducted in public (including discussions). If it's too painful for you gentlemen, perhaps you shouldn't be doing it.
    I have heard darn little discussion going on at your regular council meetings. At the last meeting 9/6/11, the "hour" of discussion on the NRC was mostly spent as an infomercial conducted by the entities who stand to gain from its adoption. Not one question, such as seen on this blog, or directed at you by the citizents you claim to represent was asked by any of you.

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    • Steve Stewart

      Ms. Griesenbeck.

      Most of the Council and the Mayor regularly encourage people to attend either the morning planning session or evening meeting. Both are televised in an attempt to engage the public. Rather than look for the evil intent in everything that the Council does perhaps you should consider the possibility that the Council really does want more public involvement and is not afraid of scrutiny, thus the constant messages from the Mayor and some members of Council, including me, for the public to become MORE INVOLVED, especially during the planning stages. It is unfortunate that the 8:30 meeting does not work for your work schedule. I am a working person and it is very inconvenient for me as well (Note that lots of "working people" work in the evening too - there is no perfect time). The 8:30am meeting is where we have the deeper discussion of issues including questions you believe we should have asked at the evening meeting.

      As Scott mentioned, most of what I said in my previous post has been discussed in public in Council meetings before (other than the Pinto Barn concept). There is an archive of past meetings available at the library. The Mountain Mail has had articles selectively discussing parts of this as well. Council does not control what Merle chooses to include in MM articles. Thus it is a good idea to attend council meetings, watch them on TV or borrow the archives from the library so you can draw your own conclusions on what was and was not discussed in public.

      If you have constructive comments on how we can better engage the public in planning I'm all ears.

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    • Bill Donavan

      Ms. Griesenbeck, Mr. Stewart is one of the more honorable men you will meet, and works as a volunteer public servant. A friendlier and more productive tone would be appreciated. Thank you.

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  17. Monika Griesenbeck

    All "evil intent" aside, I'd be happy to submit a list o f things council might do to facilitate transparency and thus public participation. But when the mayor asks after a motion has been seconded if there is any discussion before the vote and the response from you all is the usual silence, why should anyone attend your meetings?
    Meawhile, could you address my coments on the last meeting?
    Also,I don't know how long you have lived here, but Salida has a tradition of messing up. Check out a brief history of the hot water line, the hotsprings pool, the high-zone line, the water storage tank from hell I and II, the Vandaveer purchase agreement, etc. etc.
    Perhaps like a good physician, council might consider this : "first, do no harm".

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  18. Scott Damman

    Monika,

    Please submit the, "I’d be happy to submit a list o f things council might do to facilitate transparency and thus public participation." I bet everyone would like to know how to get more involvement.

    Your words,"But the public’s business should be conducted in public (including discussions). If it’s too painful for you gentlemen, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it."

    There is a public meeting on the first and third Tuesday morning and Tuesday evening. Both have the Mountain Mail in attendance, both are broadcast on live tv and both are entirely open to the public. Heck, there is a channel with the regular meeting broadcast something like 96 hours a week or more with that meeting running.

    The heat wasn't to hot for me and I have never gotten the impression that it was too hot for the rest of the seven members I had the pleasure of working with.

    I was a proponent of the morning meeting and if Hugh told you the intent was to be less formal, I would say that is wrong. The intent was to have a work session like all other levels of government, to discuss items that are not on the meeting agenda, as well as items that are. They are also to get background on issues to see if they warrant further discussion.

    Bill Smith's original point's are valid and all but the last have been discussed in a public meeting at one time or another I believe, however, keeping track of an 18 month project is no easy matter unless you attend the meetings regularly. Obviously not everyone can do that, which is why we have representative government in this country.

    I have spent a great deal of time discussing many of these points with Bill, and he didn't agree with or like my answers on all topics. That is just fine, we are still very good friends. It never came down to being sarcastic or patronizing one another. Not all the details of this project are ironed out yet, some of the details have changed, and might change again. It is no different than buying a house, the details change through the process until you actually close. The point is, as the details become clearer, you have seven people, some of whom will change in November, who have an eye on it. They are your friends and neighbors who feel they are doing what is right for Salida"s future. None of them will gain a dime personally, none.

    As I said earlier, The elected officials would be totally jazzed if more than 3 people showed up for a meeting, and not the same 3 every time. Ask the questions that are important to you. In the first 5 mins of every meeting is citizen participation. Get involved and get into it, it is after all, your town.

    And I might add, being positive is always a good thing,

    Scott

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  19. Emile' J. Dubia

    You'd have to be a lawyer or a college professor to understand this issue. And by the way, I'd like 15 acres at the ranch, riverside please....how much are these lots going for?

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  20. Bill Smith

    Scott:

    In response to your above post, and to Monica's point - there is a ridiculous amount of non-transparency here. The defense that these things have been discussed in council sessions is disingenuous. The topic is on the agenda, but the "discussion" consists of the city's lawyer discussing policy, not legal issues, and giving a self-serving "history" of how we got here. A number of people asking detailed and pointed questions, and council repeating talking points. That is not the kind of discussion that helps to inform the public.

    The most telling point of last nights meeting was the fact that all of the questions asked by the citizens were answered by the city's lawyer. It would have been nice to see the administrator or some councilmen sac up and engage in a real discussion with the folks who bothered to show up and express an opinion instead of hiding behind their lawyer and refusing to really answer the questions.

    Several people (15 by my count), by far the majority who spoke, express dismay over the lack of transparency by the 63-20. Steve Stewart later said that things were better for the council now because they had two members on the Board of the 63-20. Well that's great that council is finally getting information from the 63-20, but it does nothing for the citizens unless those councilmen share with the citizens, and they don't.

    The council is trying to have it both ways. They get to say "we can't discuss that because its a private matter" and at the same time they say, you don't have to worry because we control the Board. Keith Baker challenged anyone to show that he or Tom had a financial conflict. Well my question is "How would we know?" Can I see the books of the 63-20? No way.

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  21. P.T. Wood

    Bill do you know how this has skipped the subdivision process?

    P.T.

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  22. Bill Smith

    PT:

    It did and it did not. It did in that the City Council has already agreed to sell a parcel that has not yet been subdivided, and the entire NRC depends on the subdivision on P&Z approving the subdivision so the 63-20 can sell the parcel to Jane, and use the $300K to subsidize the feds.

    If P&Z doesn't approve then I guess they will just bypass P&Z. I can't remember off the top of my head if P&Z has final say on subdivisions or if after P&Z they go to council for final approval. Regardless, if P&Z doesn't approve they will just appeal to council, for whom apparently no price is too high.

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  23. Bob

    Now that council has set out on this path of ad hoc land sales it seems like there is now a new potential for abuse. Am I imagining this or does it seem as real to anyone else?

    On a property sale between private parties you negotiate the price and comply with the zoning and subdivision requirements. At worst, you have to deal with a P&Z commission which may not like you.

    But now we have the city council directly deciding on land sales – deciding who, how much, for what use – or in this case maybe deciding mainly on the basis that they needed some extra cash/justification to bolster their faltering scheme.

    But what if someone else comes in and offers $450,000 for those same 15 acres they just sold for $300,000? What if this other offer contains no proposed jobs but just says they’ll comply with the current zoning and land use plan for the area?

    What if this new buyer has a banker who, as McCormick said, is a great friend of the council? Or what if it’s someone who has been critical of the council in the past – someone they don’t like? Or a different parcel of a different size? Or an adjacent property owner wants to trade 5 acres here for 7 acres over there? The combinations are endless.

    Are there any objective standards? How does any buyer know if he is being treated fairly? How does the public know if the council is making decisions fairly or smartly?

    And then there is the proverbial bus hitting the buyer after the contract is signed (or the buyer files for bankruptcy for some reason). What does the buyer’s estate (or bankruptcy judge) do with the land when it has a duty to get the highest value for the asset? What happens to the proposed future jobs upon which council justified it’s sale (and sale price)?

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  24. Steve Stewart

    Bill Smith wrote: "if P&Z doesn’t approve they will just appeal to council, for whom apparently no price is too high."

    Come on Bill - you're going to extrapolate that Council will spend whatever it takes based on one observation? This kind of talk isn't productive at all. It suggests something that has no basis in fact; but that doesn't stop people from reacting to it....... as occurs in Bob's post that follows:

    "On a property sale between private parties you negotiate the price and comply with the zoning and subdivision requirements. At worst, you have to deal with a P&Z commission which may not like you."

    The NRC will go through the same subdivision process that any entity would. And yes, this and all subdivisions pass by Council after P&Z as was stated in last night's meeting.

    I wish life were risk-free but it is not. I don't mean to belittle Bob's comments - some of those things could come to pass if we are not vigilant about who we place on Council in the future. But that can be said about anything that the Council - or for that matter any legislative body - has control of. After working with Council these past two years I firmly believe that every member of Council and the Mayor has this community's best interests at heart.

    Every important decision and issue in life has many "what ifs" associated with it. Some of those we can temper with planning and vigilance (development guidelines for the Vandeveer land) and others we cannot anticipate or are completely out of our control, e.g., the financial crisis. I think at some point that you have to put *some* trust (not unlimited though) that the people you voted for (or could have) - are acting in your best interest to get the ship safely to shore.

    My goal for the future of the NRC - and I think this is the wish of Council as well - is to have better ongoing communication with the public. I will be talking with Council and the NRC board about how to best do that. I think this could work though a forum such as a monthly or quarterly meeting. Let me know your ideas and I'll pass them on.
    Steve

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  25. Monika Griesenbeck

    I don't think a single person questioned Council's integrity or personal motivations at last night's special meeting.
    But having our best interest at heart doesn't guarantee that our best interest will be served.
    The Vandaveer water rights were purchased with funds from the water activity enterprise. It was understood at the time that proceeds from the sale of the land would be used to restore that deficit to the water fund.
    I don't see how that can happen now. And that is not in our best interest.
    Knowing this, Salida voters should have had a say in whether or not their assets (land) should be given to a private entity.
    On another note, Council could do more to make meeting schedules and their agendas available to the public. I missed a special meeting a while back because there was a disconnect between the deputy clerk and the Mt. Mail. Meetings may be posted within the time and designated place as required by law, but most people do not make a special trip into the lobby at city hall to see what's posted. In the past one could check the window of the old city hall 24/ 7. Why not spend a little money and buy a space in the Mt. Mail or better yet have a markee infront of the Touber such as churches do or the Steam Plant?

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  26. Bob

    Council says it wants citizen input, but when we give them overwhelming input, they ignore it (along with some chest thumping to dampen further input). They think they know so much more than us about the project, and they do know more, which is partly their fault.

    But council has succumbed to a kind of “group think” and lost their moral bearings. They’ve heard each other justify their insider’s perspective for so long, they can no longer relate to the public’s perspective.

    I appreciate Councilman Stewart’s attempts to engage in this discussion on this blog, but his reference to people looking for “evil” intent and saying to just “trust the good intentions” of council shows me he completely misses the point (and the other councilmembers are even worse).

    Some portion of the public is overly suspicious, but they are still the public. And some of us in the public have a vastly more intensive experience with public entities in Chaffee County then Mr Stewart. We’ve seen (1) well intentioned projects become costly boondoggles, (2) well intentioned projects grossly misrepresented to the public, and (3) projects more or less designed to benefit certain individuals or groups.

    In other words, the public embodies a mix of suspicion, wisdom and oversight. You may lose some dictatorial efficiency by ignoring the public (although I’ve never seen any efficiency in local government here), but such an approach is corrosive longer term.

    Here’s another question related to my earlier post. The public found out the price of $20,000 an acre for frontage on a national highway, at the gateway to a tourist destination, with utilities up to the property boundary, next to this National Resource Center only minutes before the council voted on the issue. All I can say is “on the issue” because I don’t know what is actually final. But do you think the city (us) might have benefited more from the city advertising this for sale some time prior to the vote? The city’s actions seem both unethical and wasteful.

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  27. Bill Smith

    Steve:

    I stand by the comment.

    The project has changed some much from what was promised, but when opposition shows up we are told we have been working on this for years and its too late to change now.

    The promises broken by council and walkbacks regarding this project are too many to list, but here are a few:

    - Money from any sale of VandeVeer land would be returned to the city to offset the money paid for the land.
    - the 63-20 was set up to take advantage of bonding capability
    - Council promised in setting up the 63-20 that they would be as transparent as possible.
    - If the DOW does't come along, the project won't happen.
    - The 63-20 won't sell any of the land.
    - The city will now have to subsidize the 63-20 beyond staff time and 35 acres
    - only 35 acres will be put at risk
    - we aren't competing with private business

    You and I disagree as to whether or not the city planned to subsidize the 63-20 all along. I will eat my hat at the corner of 2nd and F if you can find one reference, even oblique, in the agendas, minutes, packets, anywhere that indicates the city intended to give the 63-20 money.

    I think the list above illustrates why people don't trust council. Because they have not proved trustworthy. It is not one incident.

    That said, I appreciate your desire to move in a different direction in the future, and you asked for suggestions. I am hoping the citizen can start another thread on this, but if you refuse to dissolve the 63-20 as most citizens who showed up asked for then how about these suggestions:

    - Replace Jack with a citizen
    - Replace Dara with a citizen
    Both of these individuals create a climate of conflict of interest. i.e. How would Dara review an application for subdivision from the 63-20 when she sits on the Board? Jack is leaving so that is a no-brainer.
    - Make all meetings of 63-20 public, all of them
    - Make the books of the 63-20 public.
    Keith challenged us to show if he had a monetary interest in the project. How could we if we don't know what is going on inside the 63-20.
    - make the 63-20 hire their own lawyer, or better yet, since Karl is the 63-20 expert, get the city an employee for an attorney.
    It is clearly a conflict for Karl to represent both the city and the 63-20, and no one has argued otherwise, they just say they are not bothered by the conflict. Further, the city could save tens of thousands by hiring in house counsel.

    How about that? Put some citizens on the Board, make the process transparent and get rid of the conflicts of interest. Sounds like radical demands to me. (or rather, what should have been done from the beginning.)

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