EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a first in a five-part, weekly series in December looking back at the accomplishments of the City of Montrose in 2021 and looking at what is on the horizon in 2022.
MONTROSE — Over the course of 2021, as waves of pandemic illness came and went through the community, the City of Montrose continued its commitment to service and improving public safety in what has become another historic year for public infrastructure construction in Montrose.
From the ground up, the millions invested in capital projects throughout the community in 2021 have truly made Montrose a city on the rise. This extensive work coincides with the city’s Envision 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by the City Council on June 1. The plan serves as a roadmap for long-range planning, land use, development policy, and capital improvements throughout Montrose.
During the early months of 2021, the city continued to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic, working with other community partners in public health to ensure essential city services continued uninterrupted.
This balance of ensuring that public services are maintained while continuing to build out new and replace aging infrastructure became a team effort involving each city department.
“We are so proud of our many work crews here at the City. Our team members have had to think outside the box to come up with creative ways to safely carry out their day to day routine maintenance with limited staffing and they have had to collaborate with our private sector partners to complete some major capital projects this year despite the unforeseen challenges caused by the pandemic” said City Manager Bill Bell.
One thing became clear in 2021, the City of Montrose is not immune to global business challenges. The city's Public Works Department experienced the same material and supply chain issues, wild price increases, labor shortages, COVID-related illness, and quarantine challenges that many industries faced.
For example, Public Works Manager Jim Scheid said the city routinely orders new trash cans each year but, due to material shortages, the price of each trash can nearly doubled compared to last year.
Another example was the cost of acquiring pavement-marking materials, which are used on city streets to mark crosswalks, intersections, and traffic lanes. Scheid said the price for the raw materials went up so significantly that the city was forced to pay more for higher-quality material simply because it was available.
“It didn’t change us in terms of being able to provide these services, it just cost us (the city) more,” Scheid said.
And, as if keeping up with supply chains weren’t enough, simply having enough healthy staff members to maintain critical city services was, at times, another daunting task. Some services like trash and recycling have few backup personnel who are trained to take over and operate specific equipment in the event that a driver becomes sick or needs to go into mandated quarantine.
“It’s more about the precautions and following state guidelines,” Scheid said. “But despite the increased difficulty of our operation, the entire Public Works Department continues to perform at a high level.”
Capital projects launched in 2021 included a new outdoor community amphitheater in Cerise Park, a new Public Safety Complex in downtown, a water tank replacement on Sunset Mesa, and a major realignment of Woodgate Road.
Montrose Rotary Amphitheater:
Construction of this exciting new facility started and finished in 2021, with a total construction cost of approximately $2.6 million. The project was finished ahead of schedule and under budget, which allowed for the first event (Oktoberfest 2021) to be held at the new amphitheater.
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While the amphitheater will definitely boost the Montrose economy by providing an outdoor venue for larger events and music festivals, its primary intent is to enhance the quality of life in Montrose for our area residents and visitors.
The venue, capable of hosting events with 5,000+ attendees in its sloped seating area, is situated in a wooded area of Cerise Park near the Uncompahgre River. It was intentionally designed with a low-profile character that fits the park setting and promotes a welcoming ambiance. It is easily accessed by foot or bike via the Connect Trail or by vehicle via Shanes Way. Plentiful parking options are provided at existing areas within the Clifford E. Baldridge Regional Park complex.
The city hired Del Mont Consultants and Thomas Chamberlain Architect in 2017 to help set design features based on potential uses and the needs and expectations of the community. While design work was progressing, the city began setting aside resources for the project.
Stryker and Company began construction this spring and completed its work ahead of schedule. The final cost of $2.6 million was well below the $3.2 million that was originally budgeted. The City of Montrose funded the bulk of the construction cost through its General Fund, Retail Sales Enhancement Fund, and Tourism Promotion Fund and with contributions from Montrose Rotarians ($187,633) and the Montrose Recreation District ($50,000).
The city will operate the facility with existing staff, providing support for events held at the amphitheater and other venues during the summer months to ensure an exemplary community experience. Reservations for specific areas of the facility and the public amenities surrounding it are being coordinated by the City Clerk’s Office.
Montrose Public Safety Complex:
As design work was nearing completion in early 2021, the construction of the new Montrose Public Safety Complex began. This project is located in the heart of downtown Montrose on South First Street in front of City Hall. In 2021 approximately $9.3 million was spent on the project and 55% of construction has been completed. The project is on schedule to be completed in August of 2022.
Sunset Mesa Water Tank:
What started as a conversation in 2018 about upgrading a failing water tank on Sunset Mesa, culminated in 2021 as work on a new 46-foot diameter, 130-foot-tall standpipe-style tank was completed. Plans to construct the new tank were prompted by residential growth on the west side of the Uncompahgre River, increased demands on the city’s overall water supply, and failure of the existing tank on Sunset Mesa.
The existing tank, built in 1962, was taken out of service several years ago due to its failing condition, according to City Engineer Scott Murphy. Since then, the tank has only been used as an irrigation source for the Sunset Mesa baseball fields.
The 1.5-million-gallon standpipe-style tank design was recommended as the preferred replacement alternative among several design proposals. The design represents the optimal mix of features that will serve the residents of Montrose for 50+ years and help ensure the availability of clean, reliable water even in the event of an emergency. A booster pump station is being constructed adjacent to the tank to provide additional water pressure for the irrigation needs on Sunset Mesa and emergency water supply for areas west of the Uncompahgre River
The City Council authorized the final design of the tank in 2019 and approved a $4.3 million construction contract with Ridgway Valley Enterprises of Montrose in 2020 and an additional $409,000 for engineering support by the Farnsworth Group. The project was funded through the city’s Water Fund.
The new tank is the latest in a series of water tank projects that began in 2007 with the start of construction of a 3-million-gallon tank on Sunnyside Road, followed by another tank of identical size and construction on Sunshine Road in 2012. These were the first water storage facilities built within the city’s water distribution system since the Sunset Mesa tank was built in the early 1960s.
Construction of the new Sunset Mesa Tank and its associated control house is nearly complete with the exception of several pieces of specialized equipment that have experienced long delivery delays due to supply chain issues. The city is hopeful that this equipment will arrive in early 2022.
Woodgate Road Realignment:
Construction of the northern end of the Woodgate Road Realignment project is nearly complete; however, the southern end of the project has been delayed due to a conflict with some third-party fiber optic communications equipment.
The communication utility owner, which the city has been working with for over a year, had been unable to get the relocations completed in time for paving of the southern end in 2021. In order to limit the amount of time that Woodgate Road is closed, the city will keep the old Woodgate Road in place until these communications utilities are relocated. The city is hopeful that this will occur in early spring 2022.
As far back as the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, the community had envisioned connecting Woodgate Road at its northern end to East Oak Grove Road along the eastern side of Townsend Avenue. This connection aims to relieve heavy traffic congestion in the area and give an alternative to Townsend Avenue, especially for local residents.
With traffic pressure building in the area, the city formally started on the design of this realignment project in early 2020. This design included the completion of traffic studies and models to ensure the project was warranted, evaluate intersection performance, and determine the best alignment for the new roadway.
“About 25,000 cars traverse that section of South Townsend Avenue each day,” City Engineer Scott Murphy said.
The alignment joins East Oak Grove approximately 600 feet east of Townsend Avenue. This distance from Townsend is necessary to avoid negatively impacting traffic operations at the East Oak Grove signal and to line up with a future road connection to Church Street that has been envisioned in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
The road extension will include a center turn lane, bike lanes in each direction, and a sidewalk along the eastern side that will tie into the existing sidewalk network along Woodgate and East Oak Grove Roads. The existing intersection with Woodgate Road at Townsend will be closed with this project.
“We are excited that many of the important projects that were highlighted in our Comprehensive Plan and our 2016 Household Community Survey are finally coming to fruition. We could not have accomplished these necessary improvements without the support and patience of our Montrose citizens and the outstanding expertise of our public works and engineering teams” Montrose City Manager Bill Bell said.
Moving Montrose Forward Street Maintenance:
Approximately $1 million worth of street patching and slurry seal surface treatments were completed in the summer of 2021.
Cerise Park Waterline:
The city is currently performing final tie-ins to complete the multi-year waterline extension project stretching from Chipeta Drive to Rio-Grande Avenue via Cerise and Riverbottom Parks.
La Raza Sports Court:
A new basketball court and amenities such as solar lights, benches, and concrete trail were added to La Raza Park. Construction cost was approximately $106,000.
Woodgate Subdivision Sewer Rebuild:
A retrofit of a failed sanitary sewer collection system within the Woodgate Subdivision was completed in the spring of 2021.
North 9th Sidewalk Extension:
The new missing-link sidewalk extension from Selig Avenue to Rio-Grande Avenue along the northern side of North 9th Street was completed in the summer of 2021.
Oxbow Median Improvements:
City crews created a safer and more water-conscious median on South Townsend by xeriscaping the median. Xeriscaping is a process of reducing maintenance costs and water consumption by replacing grassy spaces with soil, rocks, mulch, or other drought-tolerant native plant species.
Hawk Parkway Sidewalk Extension:
The new missing-link sidewalk extension from Ogden Road to Hawk Parkway along the western side of Townsend Avenue was completed this fall and is open to the public.
Envision 2040 Comprehensive Plan:
What was started as a public process in 2019 is now a strategic policy guidance document for the next 20 years as the Montrose community continues to see significant growth.
Over the course of the summer and fall of 2019, eight community workshops were held, along with online surveys and an interactive online map, to gather additional public input and involve as many people as possible throughout the Comprehensive Plan creation process. Using a combination of public meetings and online input, the city collected a record amount of public feedback for the plan.
Topics included land use, transportation, housing, economic development, capital improvements, downtown, recreation and tourism, parks and open space, environmental concerns, and intergovernmental agreements with key local government and public services partners.
The City of Montrose adopted its first Comprehensive Plan in 1998 and then completed an update in 2008, with map revisions in 2012 and 2016. Municipalities typically update comprehensive plans every ten years.
According to data by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the population of the City of Montrose is expected to rise from 20,090 in 2018 to 32,420 in 2050. In comparison, the overall population of Montrose County is projected at 68,780 in 2050, up from 43,336 in 2018.
The Envision 2040 Comprehensive Plan is available for viewing at CityofMontrose.org/CompPlan.
Coming up on December 8: How investment in the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority will bring substantial returns by bringing additional housing and jobs to the community.