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Third Gilpin County Town Hall Meeting

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August 18th Land & Facility Use Comprehensive Plan discussion

By Jaclyn Schrock

Abel Montoya, Gilpin County Manager, opened the third Town Hall (TH3) meeting following the closing of the Gilpin County Community Center (GCCC) or Recreation Center, cuts in county staff, and cuts to the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office (SO). A $2 million budget cut resulted from COVID-19 lockdown March-June, 2020.

The online Zoom TH3 meeting held August 18, 2020 at 6 pm finished about 8:30. The meeting had technical coordination from Gabrielle Chisholm, Gilpin County Business Analyst 1.  Jamie Tirado Gilpin Business Analyst II provided expert data and communications related to the topic.

The Town Hall meetings 2 and 3 along with survey 1 and 2 results can be found online at Open Gov story. A link and other information can be found on the Gilpin Community Center page of co.gilpin.co.us.

The TH3 agenda included an introduction, an overview of the last two surveys, presentation by 7 volunteer citizen special interest groups, next steps, with questions texted during the Zoom meeting and answered.

Mr. Montoya’s introduction to TH3 provided specific information about the progress Gilpin elected officials, staff and citizens are making to consider methods of recovering from the shortfall of tax revenue due to casinos and other businesses being closed for three months due to the COVID 19 lockdown.

He mentioned multiple state and national media/ publications have recognized Gilpin County to have had much deeper financial cuts than other counties from the COVID 19 lockdown. By wise planning Gilpin County is still fulfilling mandated operations with previously budgeted funds and a saving account.

Gilpin County had our financial faucet shut-off due to COVID’s lockdown and one of two sources of revenue evaporating with our quarterly casino tax payment severely depleted from previous 2nd quarter amounts.

County officials have been seeking solutions by a variety of avenues to address this shortfall.  COVID funding support has not become available to support our County needs. Some grants have been sought, and not found to apply to our situation. One hopeful grant was only for outdoor recreation, not our indoor recreation center needing $16,000 a month just for utilities.

Law enforcement financial support is still being hunted.

Gilpin County officials creatively seeking a variety of possible funding supports for the county has led to the development of seven special interest groups for GRC, as input came in during the first survey. One group is considering making the Recreation Center a Special District, as is the Gilpin County Library.

A Special District in Colorado is different from a County Department. A special District is governed by its own board of directors rather than by the County Commissioners. This can makes other funding sources more accessible rather than being completely dependent on the county budget. A Special District for the Gilpin Recreation Center could also be responsible for managing the center as well as overseeing maintenance and repairs of the facility we all have come to value.

GCCC is highly valued for a variety of small and large group events. It currently is a part of our preparedness plan for emergency shelter. Data records the number of county and out of county residents using the facility for classes and recreation.

Our community has supported the facility also with uncounted users during the county fairs, the High County Auxiliary pancake breakfast and flea market to raise funds for our Timberline Fire District, the Winter Arts Festivals, Town Hall and other meetings, CPR and other trainings and many, many special interest groups. The facility is seldom unused by youth activities, senior lunches three days a week, and hobby groups, craft classes, and pottery room.

It was designed to facilitate our annual county fair and rodeo. The barn and arena have long been used by residents for dog and equestrian activities. Gilpin County Animal Rescue Team depends on the grounds for emergency rescue and housing for displaced animals (currently used by Summit and Lake County animals due to fire dangers). The barn also houses our CSU Extension services which supports special care for rural living at 9,000 feet.

The outdoor opportunities still free from dawn to dusk include: Veterans Memorial Plaza, the BMX track, a walking trail, community garden and other county facilities housed on the campus.

GCCC Reopening Survey Results

The first online survey was to get citizen input regarding financial shortfalls affecting the Gilpin Sheriff’s Office (SO) and Community Center each cut $1 million in June 2020.

Survey #1 was completed July 17th by 114 Gilpin residents (nearly half identifying as being in Mid-Gilpin). Responses indicated the highest interest in reopening Rec Center the use of gym facilities, slightly over hobbies, senior and youth activities.

Funding votes hoped to regain revenue for GRC with a mil levy increase and beginning a sales tax for the county. Options that were less likely to be considered effective in Survey #1 were selling the buildings, getting an exercise company to manage it, seeking other investors while raising user fees also was considered possible.

Management of GRC was heavily drawn toward creating a Gilpin County Recreation Special District.

Survey #2 ended August 10 and was completed by 124 Gilpin residents highlighted results

–a willingness to support a 4.5 mil levy on Gilpin property taxes to bring the Sheriff’s Office back to status quo service.

–a willingness to support a 4.5 mil levy on Gilpin property taxes to bring the Gilpin County Community Center back up to previous services, as well as manage the center as a Gilpin County Special Interest District.

–52% would support a county sales tax to seek funds to cover the shortfall for SO and GCCC.

Montoya stated that this support encourages the county to add a mil levy question on the Gilpin County Ballot for November 3, 2020. The process has begun to add separate ballot questions for each department that received funding. County Clerk has ballot issue deadline of August 31 to get it onto the November ballot.

Potential Ballot Questions

One ballot question would be for the Recreation Center. A different ballot question would be for the Sheriff’s Department. There may be other Gilpin County questions on the ballot also.

There is the possibility that a 1 mill levy question will be presented to voters in November 2020 to be raised exclusively for the Gilpin Library as well.

A potential 4.5 could be combined as a 9 mil levy, if agreed by voters. These votes would exclusively fund or defund both the Gilpin County’s Sheriff’s Office and the Recreation Center, currently cut $1 million by a lack of tax revenue. If voters pass the increase for property tax, the increased revenue would not be available until taxes are paid in Spring of 2021.

The 4.5 mil levy increase for each Gilpin County need would be an amount that could sustain previous COVID-19 levels of operations for both the Sheriff’s Department and the Recreation Center.

There is a formula on the Gilpin County Recreation Center page to estimate the actual amount a specific property tax would increase. Considering the average value of property in Gilpin County to be $337,400 the average increase 9 mil levy would be $218 County Annual Tax Amount, or $18.19/monthly.

Montoya answered a question about the length of time for the mil levy. Some had suggested only a few years, fearful of the mil levy continuing beyond the need to replace lost funds. He stated that the future is too unpredictable for the ways recovery will occur. It is best to establish an 18-20 year mil levy and remove it as needed than to start the process all over again. The only comparison for prediction possible from such a loss was in 2008 when the casinos had a downturn. That took Gilpin Co about 10 years to recover.

Special Interest Group Presentations

TH3 moved on to hear the Special Interest Group Presentations of their mission statements, goals and values as related to the options for their group to continue functioning with or without the Community Center. Most groups had power point slides to recognize their wording for purpose and possible methods to support this sudden change for our community.

The Special District Group was presented by Jim Read, Sarah Swanson, and Carolyn Peterson. Oral presentation and slides justifying the benefits for stability purposes of the special district for the community center were presented.

Due to budget constraints brought on by COVID-19 pandemic, the Parks and Recreation Special District Group’s mission is, in the near term, to support a county mill levy initiative to reopen the Community Center and, long term, to create a Parks & Recreation Special District. For the long term, a Service Plan and ballot initiative will be created that will implement a sustainable revenue stream through a combination of user fees, program fees, mill levy, grant funding, and corporate sponsorships. Additionally, the designing of new and additional programs will be created based on the coordination with the other County focus groups and on community needs assessed through an outreach work effort. Once in place the Special District Board of Directors will strive to ensure a District that is:

–A community hub

–Multigenerational hub

–Community education resource

–Emergency shelter

–Recreational facility

Recognizing that only 2/3 of the community has been counted to use the facility for the above listed uses, when public fee events do not count the participants, the fees from these uses only cover 13% of the operating expenses.

Comm. Gail Watson made it clear that seniors, 60+ have always been able to use the Community Center for free, although they do pay for classes and meals. It was the purpose of the County Commissioners to make a center that gives back to the seniors in the community.

The Funding Group was presented by Sarah Swanson as a dialogue without power point slides. Recognizing the whole community center seeks to meet the needs of a vast community of interests, including Rural Economic Development. Mention of the Green Foundation grant funding was made. Recognizing the need for support for Eagles’ Nest day care center grants and funding sources have been explored with favorable results to keep the center operable.

Covid-19 funding from United Way has been requested. Youth Services has also received granted funding, while they scramble to find facilities to use. The application was made when the youth had the Community Center facilities to use. Alternatives are being sought to operate this program.

The Senior Special Interest Group was presented by Ginger Bear explaining the power point slides.

The Gilpin County Seniors Special Interest Group is formed to promote the engagement of older adults and enhance their social connection with the larger community. We are here to advocate for Seniors and near Seniors, give them support and establish a communications network. Through this effort we will endeavor to provide them with opportunities to participate in our community and help them to live healthier longer. Goals:

–retain senior activities interrupted with GCCC closing, to help Seniors utilize the Community Center Campus for a multitude of purposes: Senior Lunches and Education, Healthcare, Pottery, Hobbies, Exercise through Aquacize and Senior Stretch & Strengthening, Utilizing the track and trail, Growing in the Community Garden, Pickle Ball, Various Classes, Volunteerism at gatherings and Special Events

–seek alternatives to county senior transportation services being discontinued for doctor visits and grocery shopping

–facilitate utilizing the food bank, Market Boxes and meals on wheels when appropriate

–establish a network of communication with those who could easily be isolated without or unable to use electronic communications systems.

It has been recognized from a population estimate for Gilpin County July 1, 2019 that 17.8% of the population was 65 or older. Our county recognizes seniors to be 60. The persons 50+ who would soon be participating in senior privileges in the county could actually be more like 25%. It is uncertain the percent of seniors who used the community center before closing.

The Barn Group was presented by Norma Jones with power point slides. Explaining the scope of the impact to the community without the use of the barn and arena was made clear. Volunteers have stepped up in this group to continue outdoor facility maintenance so that Gilpin County Animal Rescue Team is able to still use the grounds.

It is the mission of Friends of the Gilpin Fairgrounds and Arena to promote a source of community pride among county residents by offering recreational opportunities for participation, education, responsibility, and enjoyment by providing a well-managed, multipurpose, year-round facility that promotes agriculture and community involvement.

Details for the Barn included 11 visions of safety and community engagements practicing responsibility, funding for utilities and possible fund raiser opportunities, current success and future activities to encompass a more inclusive Gilpin population.

The Arts & Crafts Group presenters included Sahari McCormick, Steve Briggs, and Rebecca Lundberg with slide presentations. Long and short term goals were presented with how to achieve them.

Arts, crafts, and hobbies strengthen communities by providing opportunities to network, create, learn, and grow. The arts have the power to unleash a person’s creativity, to open up a channel for a person to express themselves. Strong communities support the arts, and the arts help build strong communities.

The Gym Group was presented by Steve Schwettmen, who only hours before stepped into the leadership of the group, so he did not brainstorm with them and was unable to attend their scheduled planning event, but had dialogue with them. The efforts reported from the gym group recognized the need to allow for the physical use of the walking track, gym equipment, stretch and strengthen classes along with yoga, martial arts, dance and creative movement classes. Recognizing the expense of the pool, and the need to keep it closed for now, discussion has not begun for that to reopen with such limited resources.

To strategize and create options that will enable persons to participate safely in activities on the Community Center Campus as soon as possible. This group will focus on activities as they relate to fitness classes; activities in the weight room, gymnasium, track, and cardio hall; aquatics; and leagues. We will also explore other activities such as trainings, ice skating, and events/meetings that would facilitate more community participation and collaboration.

The Youth Group was presented by Jake Rippy. The discussion was heard about the grant for youth services and ways being sought to make services available without the GCCC being open.

We look forward to participating in the next survey and Town Hall Meeting. Our Community is pulling together to make the best of our situation.

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