Belvidere Theatre spat leads to resolution failure

Central City Council Meeting

By David Josselyn

Executive Session

Council entered Executive Session at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 prior to the regular meeting, to discuss personnel matters for which the employee has consented and to determine positions relative to matters regarding potential lease of City owned property. Council exited Executive Session near 6:00 p.m. to go into a work session, but did not complete their business and requested an amendment to the regular meeting to go back into Executive Session at the end of the evening.

Work Session

Council met with Staff for a Work Session at 6:02 p.m. to hear information regarding a Belvidere Proforma, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s organized crime and gaming unit, and final review of the proposed 2020 Budget.

Council listened to a presentation and were given packets of data projecting operating costs for the Belvidere Theatre once it is operational. The Belvidere will be completed in two stages with the first stage being the south side of the building which includes the Shoofly and the second stage being the theater itself. The estimated operational cost of each side of the building is equally estimated to be between $8.00 to $9.00 per square foot. Projected revenues from the anticipated uses show that the City will be operating the building at 50% cost recovery; in other words, the City will operate at a loss. Alderman Hidahl argued that they did not take into consideration the national and international reputation of the City. He reported that prior to gaming, the City as a tourist destination, was known across borders. The revenues from the pro-forma did not include interest outside of Colorado.

Council was addressed by two gentlemen from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI); Deputy Director Chris Schaefer and Agent in Charge Jeff Schierkolk. Deputy Director Schaefer reported that the CBI has been doing a poor job community with local governing bodies with what they do and how they improve the communities. The CBI operates as a request agency; not intervening unless an entity reaches out to them with a request. They primarily operate in smaller jurisdictions as most large cities have adequate personnel for investigations. They have several capacities in their investigations unit, state laboratory, and background checks to follow up on major crimes, human trafficking, ID theft, cyber crime and meth rings. Agent in Charge Schierkolk reported on an incident in Cripple Creek in which a wallet found on a casino floor was reported to the local police department which led to the owner with four warrants. When police went to the owner, a struggle ensued, and he ended up fleeing in a high-speed chase. Police found drugs and over 5,500 pieces of stolen mail in his vehicle. The local police were not equipped to handle an investigation of this size, so they called in the CBI. It was discovered that the suspect and his girlfriend were involved in ID theft, mail theft, and drug possession. They were observed stealing gambler’s purses and ID as they played on machines. Alderwoman Johnson commented that the lesson here is to always shred your mail; and if you are involved in organized crime, do not drop your wallet on the casino floor. The Deputy Director made some closing comments regarding the facial recognition software they use that has been in the news recently. He reported that there is misleading information circulating about how and when it is used. The only time this technology is utilized is when law authorities request assistance from CBI and provide a still image from a reported crime, such as a bank robbery. CBI will then use the technology to compare that image with pre-existing mug shots. They never use surveillance or social media and they do not monitor the general public.

Regular Council Meeting

Mayor Fey reconvened the regular meeting at 7:16 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers. Council members; Jeff Aiken, Judy Laratta, Jackie Johnson, Jack Hidahl, and Mayor Jeremy Fey were present. In attendance for Staff were City Clerk Reba Bechtel, City Attorney Marcus McAskin, Finance Director Abigail Robbins, City Manager Daniel Miera, Community Development Director Ray Rears, Public Works Director Sam Hoover, Utilities Director Jack Beard, Fire Chief Gary Allen, and County Sheriff Division Chief Tom Ihme.

Mayor Fey led the Pledge of Allegiance and then asked for any amendments or additions to the evening’s agenda. Item number seven, the appointment to the Planning Commission vacancy, is being tabled and Council will enter Executive Session at the end of the regular meeting.

Mayor Fey asked if there were any conflicts of interest for any member of the council. There were no conflicts expressed.

Consent Agenda

The Mayor called for a motion to approve the consent agenda which consisted of the minutes from the November 5 meeting and regular bill lists through November 14. Alderman Hidahl commented he would like to learn more about a tree inspection and the Wide-Awake Media expenditures. Manager Miera responded that Staff will be bring these up in a work session. Alderwoman Laratta moved to approve the Consent Agenda and was seconded by Alderwoman Johnson. The motion passed unanimously.

Public Forum

Mayor Fey opened the floor to the public for anyone who wished to speak to a topic on the night’s agenda. No one chose to speak to the Council at that time.

Planning Commission Appointment

This item was tabled, and Council took no action. There was one applicant for the Planning Commission vacancy whose request consisted of the following words, “I have reviewed the position requirements and I believe I can meet all of them. Please consider me for the appointment to the Central City Planning Commission,” with no other references or background.

Granting the Belvidere

Director Rears introduced Resolution 19-30 which would authorize the Belvidere Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Tier II grant application. This grant would cover the cost of Phase 1 which includes the Shoofly portion, roof repairs, the front elevator, HVAC, site works, façade restoration and reconstruction of the rear kitchen. Rears stated Staff met with the DOLA grantor and he was “very favorable” toward the grant.

Alderman Hidahl commented, “I think it’s time to be aggressively marketing for Phase II to get funding sources now.” He argued that communicating to people that this project is getting close to fruition would encourage future financing. Alderwoman Laratta commented, “I think it’s going to facilitate a lot of interest once we get scaffolding out there, or a banner that announces, ‘coming soon – the New Belvidere.’”

Alderman Hidahl moved to approved Resolution 19-30 and was seconded by Alderwoman Johnson and Alderwoman Laratta simultaneously. The Resolution passed unanimously with a resounding “Yay.”

Mayor Fey Denied

Manager Miera introduced Resolution 19-31 which would appoint a new president to the board of directors of the Central City Building Authority. In 2017, former Mayor Kathryn Heider was appointed as the corporation’s President and this resolution appoints current Mayor Jeremy Fey for that position. The Board of Directors consists of City Manager Daniel Miera, City Finance Director Abigail Robbins, and assuming approval of this resolution, City Mayor Jeremy Fey.

Alderman Hidahl commented, “I want to be consistent with what we did filling the HPC” (Historic Preservation Commission) avoiding conflicts when one member sits on more than one Commission. “I think we are remiss in placing the Mayor on the Authority.” Attorney McAskin responded, “There has been only two presidents since it (the Building Authority) was incorporated in 1995.” The Authority will never have any interest in non-public buildings. There will never be a personal financial interest in the outcome, reported McAskin. Alderman Hidahl replied that he doesn’t see a conflict in the classic interest of financial awards; however, “My concern is that one member would be voting on the same action twice.” Hidahl also said, “I think the mayor is perfectly suited to fulfilling that role.” The City Attorney countered saying, “The original articles appointed the five sitting council members” as the building authority. “It is up to you to decide; I don’t see it as a conflict” said McAskin. Mayor Fey commented, “I think your reticence may be my reluctance to support the Belvidere Theatre without question.” Alderman Hidahl responded, “I think the President should be someone more enthusiastic for the project, but that is not my concern.” Hidahl reiterated to the Mayor, “I think you are capable and qualified to fulfill that role.” It’s a matter of principal, continued Hidahl, “I don’t think it should have been setup with the Mayor in the beginning.” Alderwoman Johnson spoke up saying, “I personally am not comfortable putting anyone on the board who sees it as a potential money pit.” Mayor Fey responded saying, “Potential money pit.” Alderwoman Laratta countered saying to the Mayor, “I think you are so enthusiastic about the City itself, you will be drawn into the excitement around the building and I would support you as President.” Alderman Hidahl reported he had a conversation with a former mayor of the City, and he would consider Ron Engels (current County Commissioner) in the role instead of the Mayor.

Alderman Hidahl moved to approve Resolution 19-31 “to call the question” and was seconded by Alderwoman Laratta. The Resolution failed two votes to three with Alderman Aiken, Alderwoman Johnson, and Alderman Hidahl voting against.

One Year Equals 364 Days?

Attorney Marcus McAskin introduced the first reading of Ordinance 19-10 which would amend section 8-1-40 and 8-1-60 of the Municipal regarding maximum jail sentencing for traffic offenses. This is the second such Ordinance, which at the time of the prior Ordinance, counsel was unaware there was a reference to the one-year sentence in the Traffic Code. This would change language of “one year” to 364 days as stated in State Code.

Alderwoman Laratta moved to approve the first reading of Ordinance 19-10 and set the public forum and second reading for December 3, 2019 and was seconded by Alderwoman Johnson. The motion passed unanimously.

Public Hearing – 2020 Budget

Mayor Fey gave the floor to Manager Miera to review the proposed Budget 2020 prior to opening the public hearing. Manager Miera pointed out the steps the City took to pay off debt, buy items outright, or payoff items to avoid continuing interest and finance expenses, and highlight the five-year capital improvements plan. Alderman Hidahl noted a balance in the reserves and asked if that could be used to pay off future expenditures. Manager Miera responded that keeping a reserve balance is prudent and leads to being able to avoid financing on future planned capital improvements.

Mayor Fey opened the public hearing on the budget and Doug from Breckenridge chose to address council saying, “I spent several years seeing how Breckenridge operates and thought I would check out this meeting to see how a small-town conducts business.” He complimented Council on their diligence and attention to debt management.

Staff Reports

Alderman Hidahl commented, I think Daniel (City Manager Miera) and Abigail (Director of Finance Robbins) have done an excellent job in putting together the Budget; I appreciate your careful attention to what Council has said in work sessions and meetings.” Hidahl stated that a year ago Council started a program in reducing debt and “you have continued to work on that goal.”

Alderwoman Johnson commented, “I saw the Spruce Street signs being installed and they are nice and large; easy to read.” She was referring to signs that prohibit truck and trailer traffic on Spruce Street. Alderwoman Laratta added, “They are fabulous!”

Alderman Hidahl commented that the City is doing more code enforcement than in previous years. “I would like a work session” for “a better idea of what the code enforcement consists of; what improvement we’ve made.” He stated that there are still several residential buildings with broken windows and other items of decay that he would like to see addressed perhaps with “more carrot” than stick.

Council Comments

Alderwoman Laratta commented again on the new street signs prohibiting certain traffic on Spruce Street, “I’m happy about signs, super happy!”

Public Forum

Mayor Fey opened the floor to the public for anyone who wished to speak to the council on any items not on the agenda. One person addressed Council.

Resident and co-chair for the Tommyknocker Holidays Barb Thielemann reported that the Festival is coming soon. The Elk Ladies are preparing goody bags for the children. On Thursday, December 5, the children will have a parade up Main Street and decorate the tree and there will be a story teller from Idaho Springs. On Friday, December 6, the Mayor will light the tree and the Peak to Peak Chorale will lead caroling up Main Street to the Teller House for the City’s potluck. During the potluck, there will be a “crazy sweater” contest and the Chorale will perform. The Bazaar will be on Saturday and Sunday starting at 10:00 a.m.

Mark your calendars

Council reconvened Executive Session at 8:40 p.m. The next regular Council Meeting will be Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.

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