CITY POURS MONEY INTO PET PROJECTS, DEFERS COMMUNITY NEEDS

By Gail Marvel
Mirror City Beat
MONTROSE-Deferred maintenance, the practice of postponing maintenance in areas of infrastructure so as to realign budgets or pursue new capital projects, should not be confused with everyday maintenance such as filling street potholes.
In the most recent citywide survey (2016), residents placed traffic congestion and street maintenance as high priorities, but the survey results do not reflect citizen’s priorities as to maintenance vs. capital projects.
Since early spring the city staff has had conversations in council work sessions about the 2018 budget and it has been suggested that, rather than the yearly budget process, the city switch to a multi-year budgeting format. City staff favors multi-year planning and budgeting to help establish the big picture for capital projects; however, such a format has the potential for the current city council to tie the hands of future elected officials by locking them into a budget in which they had no part.
It’s not unusual for one administration to inherit deferred maintenance from their predecessor and during the March 6th work session Public Works Director John Harris addressed capital projects and street maintenance. “We have a lot of plans on the shelf. Our biggest problem is recovering from bad practices of the last 30 or 40 years. We are being proactive now, which has not always been the case.”
City Manager Bill Bell asked for council’s priorities on whether the city should focus on maintenance, new capital projects, or a hybrid of the two. Bell said, “I just want your general thoughts. Are you more excited about building new, or doing maintenance?” Mayor Judy Ann Files, Councilman Rex Swanson and Councilman Roy Anderson appeared to favor capital improvements and Anderson said, “Don’t throw out all the capital projects just to do maintenance.”
During the April 17th work session Harris said, “My biggest concern is a lot of our failing roads are now capital projects. We’ve done as good as we can do with the money we have. We are at the point where it’s really a dollar issue. How do we maintain roads that are still maintainable?”
At the June 19th work session Harris noted that the more the city falls behind, the more expensive it becomes and a complete reconstruction is the most expensive. He said, “The greatest challenge is funding. The 2017 budget is for $875,000. In order to just maintain we need $4.7 M in 2018. We are not on a sustainable path right now for funding maintenance.”
The two main capital improvement projects slated for 2018 were the Hillcrest extension and the roundabout near the golf course at Miami and Hillcrest. However, supporters for that roundabout are now backing away from that project.
For more than a decade city administration and council, past and present, have justified not pursuing the completion of the Grand/Rio Grande extension because the railroad right-a-way ($6 M) is said to be cost prohibitive. Likewise, design plans for the extension of 6700 Road continue to gather dust. Harris said, “We have seven or eight [designs] on the shelf and shovel ready.”
Bill Bell was hired as Montrose City Manager in 2011 and in the past few years the city administration and city council have found funds (general funds and grants) to purchase the Black Canyon Golf Course, build a second dispatch center, partner with the privately-owned Proximity Space, build a water park and trails, loan money to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and make plans to build an amphitheater.
Many costly improvements have been seen at the Black Canyon Golf Course, which was purchased by the city in 2014. In a Montrose Daily Press article (June 4, 2017) City Manager Bill Bell is quoted, “The golf course was in major disrepair and there were millions of dollars in deferred maintenance…We knew when we entered the business of golf that it would be at least five years before we got significantly caught up on the capital improvements.”