In an effort to expand markets and partnerships, the City of Montrose is taking a regional approach to offering services.

By Caitlin Switzer  MONTROSE—(February 6)  The City of Montrose encompasses 17.8 square miles, with an average of 1,075 people living within each of those square miles according to 2010 US Census data. The city’s resources serve many who live beyond its boundaries, however, and Montrose City Manager Bill Bell believes it is time for Western Colorado to position itself as a region composed of interdependent communities that support one another.


“This area has so much to offer!” he said. “Living in Montrose, we can get out to so many awesome places.

“Our current city council and staff are definitely looking regionally with our services,” Bell said. “We have established an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Montrose Recreation District. Our IT Dept. is already serving the City of Ouray, and we are talking to Ridgway and Telluride.”


Bell said that he hoped to establish working relationships with the City of Delta and Montrose County as well.

“I am supposed to look for potential sources of revenue,” he said, “And we can provide troubleshooting services right from our offices. (New Montrose County Manager) Rick Eckert is going to be great—I would love to work with the county and perhaps expand our joint services.”Since taking on the role of city manager in July of 2011, Bell has worked to forge strong relationships with key local entities like the Downtown Development Authority and the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance & Planning.   He has high praise for the current city council, composed of Mayor Thomas Smits (Dist. I);  Mayor Pro Tem Judy Ann Files (at large);  and councilors Carol McDermott (Dist. II);  Kathy Ellis (Dist. IV) and Bob Nicholson (Dist. III).


“This council has been supportive of me and of city staff, and they are willing to look outside the box and try new things,” he said. “They are willing to take risks; it is the best group I have worked with in 11 years.”

Among the “out of the box” actions taken by the City in recent weeks are a re-thinking of the local contract with Little League, as well as a decision not to continue funding the tourism promotion and retail enhancement functions of the Montrose Association of Commerce & Tourism (Montrose ACT), which was formed in early 2010 to bring together the functions of the former Montrose Area Merchants Association (MAMA), the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and the Montrose Visitor and Convention Bureau.  The City’s decision resulted in a funding cut of $230,000 in retail enhancement funds and $400,000 in tourism promotion funds for the Montrose ACT.


According to a statement released on the City’s web site, the retail enhancement and tourism promotion functions will now be administered through the City Manager’s office.  “Our plan is to involve more of the community,” Bell said. “We have created a business services committee, under the direct supervision of (Assistant to the City Manager) Rob Joseph.”  Also serving on the Business Services Committee will be Bell, as well as city staffers David Spear and Virgil Turner.  “We are excited to create a gateway business district,” Bell said, adding that Montrose ACT events staffer Kristin Modrell was offered a job coordinating events for the City as part of the transition. “We have four established business districts in Montrose, and we are excited to reach out and work with more partners.”


Contracting services with local professionals who offer them, such as the training services provided by Sue Hansen of Sue Hansen Speaks, will be part of the city’s strategy, he said.  “We are not going to discriminate,” Bell said. “We plan to contract with various organizations who are good at a particular function and assign them tasks. When it comes to local business, many of our constituents have been paying both the retail enhancement tax and chamber dues. We want to see sales and special events that will boost traffic, and we want to work with Region 10, which is creating a small business resource center—we plan to help with that.”  Bell said that he believes a Visitor Center located somewhere near Main and Townsend would better serve travelers.


In other business, Bell acknowledged that the City has taken steps to re- examine its relationship with Little League.

“Little League has failed us as an organization—there have been fights breaking out, and the police called–and we are looking at possibly terminating our contract,” Bell said. “They are difficult to work with, and our attorneys have been trying to renegotiate their 50-year lease.”  The City meets with local Little League Officials Feb. 5, he said. If the City does end up taking over the local youth baseball program, the City will transfer the $21,000 that Little League owes to Region 10 for equipment to its own books.  “We’ll hold more tournaments, and make cash registers ring in our community,” Bell said.

In other news, while the restructuring of Main in Motion to become a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) subcommittee took place in January, the City had nothing to do with it, Bell noted. While he was in attendance at the recent meeting at which five Main in Motion board members stepped down, it was only to offer the City’s support with financial services, he said.  “It came as a shock to all of us,” he said. “We will support them if they ask for help—last year I asked City Council to waive the $6,000 street closure fee for them–and we look forward to working with the new subcommittee.”


Finally, Bell acknowledged that the City’s oft-criticized snow removal efforts are “a work in progress.”

“It’s about cost,” he said, “Fortunately, Montrose has mild winters—when I worked in Northern Wisconsin we spent $3 million every year on snow removal. We definitely need to add more salt to our sand mix, because sand doesn’t melt ice.”  Bell noted that John Harris, who started as the City’s Public Works Director in December, is working to turn the entire department around.