Montrose, CO — City Councilors met online Tuesday evening, May 5, to consider a number of ordinances and discuss city operations and projects during the council’s regular meeting. Councilors Roy Anderson, Dave Bowman, Barbara Bynum, Dave Frank, and Doug Glaspell met for one hour, five minutes. The following is a summary of the primary topics discussed during the meeting.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Councilors voted unanimously to approve the minutes of the April 21 regular City Council meeting. The city’s archive of past meeting minutes can be found at: CityofMontrose.org/ArchiveCenter.
CALL FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began and council meetings moved to a virtual format, a member of the public participated in the public comment period. The public is welcome to submit questions or written public comments by contacting the City Clerk’s office at 970.240.1430 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the Tuesday, May 5, meeting here.
4152 N. TOWNSEND ADDITION ANNEXATION
The City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 2501 on second reading approving the annexation of property located at 4152 North Townsend Avenue into the city limits.
ORDINANCE 2502 (4152 N. Townsend zoning)
Councilors unanimously approved an ordinance zoning the 4152 North Townsend Addition as a B-3 General Commercial District.
BALLOT ISSUE 2A QUARTERLY REPORT CARD
City Manager Bill Bell, along with Police Chief Blaine Hall, delivered the first public report card on the progress made by the Police Department implementing its commitments under Ballot Issue 2A.
In November 2019, voters approved a .58 percent Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) increase to fund the hiring of more police officers, construct a new Police Department headquarters, fund additional equipment and training, and move the department into an intelligence-led policing model, or ILP, to address rising drug activity and violent crime in the city.
When the city began collecting the PSST in January 2020, Bell said the city would provide quarterly reports to the public in an effort to be open and transparent about the resulting tax revenue and the Police Department’s implementation measures.
Bell said Tuesday that a big accomplishment was the city’s increased General Fund expenditures allocated to public safety. The measure committed the city to place no less than 43 percent of General Fund expenditures to public safety. Bell reported that in 2020 the city was able to dedicate 44 percent, or $8 million, of the city’s General Fund to public safety and the Police Department.
Bell said the city estimated the cost of a new “public safety complex,” located downtown on the existing city campus, was about $16 million. He said the city’s goal was to borrow money from the USDA Rural Development program at 3.5-percent interest but was able to lock in a rate at 3.28-percent, which will also make the annual debt service payment on the loan less than the $900,000 originally budgeted. Earlier this spring the city issued certificates of participation, or COPs, to fund the construction. Bell said with volatility in the financial markets he was proud to have locked in a lower interest rate to keep the construction project within the original estimate of $16 million.
So far the city has completed site demolition and hired a design consultant for the project, according to Bell.
Police Chief Blaine Hall said the department has increased its school resource officers so there is now a full-time officer at Montrose High School and two others to serve each middle school in Montrose.
“Our school kids are one of our most precious commodities, and so a school resource officer, an additional one, was certainly a priority,” Hall said.
Hall said the department is looking to hire one additional school resource officer to cover all the elementary schools in Montrose. Hall reported the department has hired a new crime analyst, a new detective, and a public safety attorney. Additional improvements include an increased social media presence to inform the public about police programs and initiatives, approval to purchase body-worn cameras for all patrol officers, and a full-time director to run the department’s newly created law enforcement recruiting academy.
The department is partnering with Colorado Mesa University to create a law enforcement academy to help with the recruitment and hiring of officers for the Montrose Police Department.
PUBLIC INFORMATION REPORT
Bell said he had received a number of questions regarding a possible biomedical company relocating to Montrose to create COVID-19 test kits and possible vaccines for the virus. In recent weeks local social media boards have been busy with people posting and seeking information about COVAXX, a subsidiary of United Biomedical Group (UBI), that wants to take over the former JetAway building located at the Montrose Regional Airport.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there on social media, which is normal,” Bell said.
Bell said the owner of COVAXX, who was raised in the Ridgway and Telluride areas, called the city to request a meeting at 1 Creative Place, the site of the old JetAway operation at the airport. Bell said the company sent them a business plan and additional public information about their business, which is developing and distributing COVID-19 testing kits and a possible vaccine in their facility.
"They really need the ability to work in a way that is called "through the fence" on airport property," Bell said.
Bell said they want to be able to transport testing and medical supplies in and out of the airport about six times each day.
Bell said the property COVAXX is seeking at 1 Creative Place is properly zoned as "light industrial," and bio-medical and light assembly operations fall into that zoning designation.
"And that is really the extent of the city’s involvement in this project," Bell said.
Bell reported that public requests to block the business from coming to town are not consistent with city policies towards business.
"We don’t have the ability to tell a business they can’t come to our community if the property they want to purchase is properly zoned for whatever activity they want to do. We can’t tell them they can’t come to that facility," Bell said.
Bell said there are timelines, procedures, and policies that include Montrose County, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Homeland Security to make any COVAXX facility a reality.
Bell said he understands the public’s concerns over having a COVID-19 testing and vaccine facility in town, but added there are so many federal policies in place from Homeland Security that he feels confident that appropriate oversight would be in place if the company does decide to commit to Montrose.
Bell reiterated that the company is still in the early stages of pursuing a facility in Montrose and the city will be following the situation as it develops.
CITY COUNCIL DISCUSSION
Director of Business Innovation Chelsea Rosty told the council the city’s Office of Business and Tourism is working each day to help local businesses stay informed about state and local health policies while working with them to find solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Councilor Dave Bowman said there is a real possibility that there will not be live music on the Western Slope this year due to social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. This would include the annual Summer Music Series in Montrose.
Mayor Pro Tem Doug Glaspell said he is concerned that the public isn’t taking social distancing measures seriously and has seen a lot of people in public not wearing facemasks. He said to prevent a surge in new infections he would like to see more people wearing facemasks, especially in public areas like grocery stores.
All regular City Council meetings are open to the public and are held at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. All City Council meetings are recorded and made available online via on the city’s website and cable channels 191 for Charter subscribers and 970 for Elevate subscribers. Replays of council meetings are also broadcast at 6 p.m. on the same channels on days that council is not in session.
In addition, each regular meeting is archived on the City of Montrose’s YouTube channel.
Work sessions are also open to the public and are usually held on the first and third Mondays of each month at 10 a.m. These meetings give councilors the opportunity to hear background information, ask questions, and have informal discussions about city policies and current issues before taking formal action through a public vote during regular council meetings.
Replays of work sessions are aired nightly following replays of the City Council’s regular meetings. Work sessions are also archived on the City of Montrose’s YouTube channel.
Residents can watch all regular City Council meetings and work sessions live through the city’s website at CityOfMontrose.org/Video.
For more city news visit CityOfMontrose.org.