Black Hawk going with drone displays versus fireworks

City Council Reviews Reduced 2021 Budget

By Randy Beaudette

A 2021 Budget work session preceded the November 11, 2020 Black Hawk City Council Regular online meeting.

Online participants included Mayor Spellman, Council Members Linda Armbright, Paul Bennett, Jim Johnson, Hal Midcap, Greg Moates, and Benito Torres. Also present online were City Attorney Corey Hoffmann, City Manager Stephen Cole, Finance Director Lance Hillis, City Clerk/ Admin Services Director Melissa Greiner, and Deputy City Clerk Michele Martin.

2021 City of Black Hawk Budget Reductions

During the 2020 COVID shutdown, the City of Black Hawk experienced some huge losses in gaming revenue and the 2021 city budget reflected those losses. 2020 losses are projected to be around $1.7 million dollars with 2021 projected losses of around $3.2 million which are considered to be very conservative figures. Due to uncertainties, these numbers and can change as COVID-19 situation changes. Finance Director Lance Hillis led the discussion stating that “The 2021 budget looks very much different than in previous years, Only the necessities are in there, we cut back where we could and implemented some cut backs for the balance of 2020.” Most of the major differences in the 2021 budget involved personnel. When the budget was initially drawn up, according to Mr. Hillis, the expectation that another shutdown was very remote. As we all note the rise in COVID cases in the county, the state has placed Gilpin County in the COVID-19 Dial level yellow which restricts most places of business to a 50% capacity. This draft of the 2021 budget takes into consideration that most of the businesses will be operating under capacity for the remainder of 2020 and all of 2021.

According to most recent employee compensation survey, a 3% increase in salary is recommended for 2021, however, the actual 2021 budget implements a 1.5% salary increase across the board which will be delayed until second quarter of 2021. Bonuses built into the 2020 budget will be eliminated and will not return in 2021. Holiday bonuses of $300 for each city employee will remain for both years. The remainder of the employee benefits and programs will remain unchanged.

The annual July Forth Fireworks display will not be budgeted in 2021 due to the high cost of the event. An alternate program was introduced by City Clerk/ Administrative Services Director Melissa Greiner during the work session that utilizes 500 to 1,000 drones with lights coordinated to create the illusion of fireworks. Costs of the show will be around $50,000 for three shows which is much lower than the conventional fireworks display. Mayor Spellman pointed out that the drone show will eliminate the fire risk in the area, complaints of fallout from neighboring communities, and the fact that Black Hawk will soon lose the Miner’s Mesa launch site. The Mayor agreed that this program will be the future of fireworks displays. The City may expand the drone show to Memorial Day, Labor Day, and special events. After the presentation, a $55,000 budget item for possible drone shows in 2021 had been added.

The residential paint program which was suspended in 2020 will resume in 2021 at the cost of about $100,000. Outdoors flowers survived the cuts and will be maintained at or about the same level as 2020. Holiday decorations also survived the 2021 cuts with a cost of around $178,000. 2020 Holiday decorations were cut drastically to $63,000, but the Silver Dollar Metro District agreed earlier this year to share the costs with the City.

Other cutbacks include the Black Hawk Planning Department has been reduced from three full-time employees to two. Black Hawk Police has budgeted thirty-five full-time employees which is down from the 2019 budget. Positions for two officers, one detective, and one dispatch officer will not be filled in 2021. Black Hawk Fire also saw a reduction in personnel from 24 in 2019, to 22 in 2021.

For the most part, the rest of the budget remained unchanged and these numbers are based on a “worst case scenario.” Budgetary changes are to be expected as the COVID situation unfolds in 2021. Black Hawk City Council will conduct an official vote on the 2021 budget at their next meeting on November 25, 2020.

Regular Meeting 

Mayor Spellman called the Council to order promptly at 2:15 pm followed by Roll Call and an online Pledge of Allegiance. Roll call revealed Council members that were present online included Linda Armbright, Paul Bennett, Jim Johnson, Hal Midcap, Greg Moates, and Benito Torres. Also present online were City Attorney Corey Hoffmann, City Manager Stephen Cole, City Clerk/Admin Services Director Melissa Greiner, and Deputy City Clerk Michele Martin.

City Attorney Hoffmann asked Council to declare any Conflicts of Interest on any issue appearing on the agenda other that than those already disclosed and filed with the City Clerk and Secretary of State. There were no objections from the City Council or from anyone online.

Approval of Minutes

Black Hawk City Council approved the meeting minutes from the October 28, 2020 Regular Meeting with no corrections or amendments.

Next Meeting

The next Black Hawk City Council regular meeting will be held on November 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm online. For more information visit

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