Council considers widening Gregory again after BID request
By David Josselyn
The US Government may shut down, but Council continues to talk budget
The Central City Council met for a work session on Tuesday, October 1st, at 6:00pm to continue their budget talks. The deadline to submit a proposed budget to City Council is October 15th after which, a public hearing will be scheduled sometime in November before the Council adopts the final budget. The council made several recommendations on the Historic Preservation Fund this evening and will pick up budget talks again on Thursday, October 3rd.
Council agrees to add agenda item to meeting
The Central City Council meeting was called to order by Mayor Ron Engels at 7:05pm. All members were present. Several business owners and general managers were also present and wished to add an item to the agenda concerning the Lawrence Street Water Project. Mayor Engels asked the council to either agree to add the item or to deny it. Alderman Gaines said, “It doesn’t hurt to listen,” in support of hearing the new item and Alderman Shirley Voorhies agreed. Alderman Glo Gaines moved to add the new agenda item and was seconded by Alderman Voorhies. The motion passed unanimously.
Ordinances to annex two small properties, the Iowa Lode Mining Claim and the Prospector’s Run-BLM transfer property, were introduced and approved on first reading at the September 17th Council Meeting. City Attorney Marcus McAskin reviewed the annexation steps taken to date for the Iowa Lode Mining Claim, Resolution 13-20, and the Prospector’s Run – BLM transfer property, Resolution 13-21, annexations. A study was done to determine whether the annexations were in fact eligible for annexation as declared. Mayor Engels opened up a public hearing for the resolutions; however, no one volunteered to address the council and Mayor Engels called for a motion. Alderman Voorhies moved to approve Resolution 13-20 and was seconded by Alderman Gaines. The motion passed unanimously. Alderman Voorhies moved to approve Resolution 13-21 and was seconded by Alderman Spain. The motion passed unanimously. Alderman Gaines moved to approve Ordinance 13-11, the annexation of the Iowa Lode Mining Claim, and was seconded by Alderman Voorhies. The motion passed unanimously. Alderman Gaines moved to approve Ordinance 13-13, the annexation of the Prospector’s Run-BLM transfer property, and was seconded by Alderman Voorhies. The motion passed unanimously. Prior to voting on Ordinance 13-12, the re-zoning of the Iowa Lode Mining, the question was asked on what the construction projects are going on at the property. The structures being added to the property include the installation of a culvert and then a single-family home that connects to Eureka Street. Alderman Voorhies moved to approve Ordinance 13-12, the re-zoning of the Iowa Load Mining Claim, and was seconded by Alderman Spain. The motion passed unanimously. Alderman Gaines moved to approve Ordinance 13-14, the re-zoning of the Prospector’s Run-BLM transfer property, and was seconded by Alderman Voorhies. The motion passed unanimously.
Lawrence Street “timing is poor”
Joe Behm, executive director of the BID, addressed the council regarding the Lawrence Street Water Project. Joe stated that “the timing is poor,” for the project. Joe prefaced his statements saying he recognizes that the Council made a decision last week and that it is difficult to revisit a decision, but “in light of the current statewide crisis due to flooding, and the possibility that Central City will bear the burden of increased traffic,” respectfully requests the council to reconsider their position. “The risks to the city are too great.” Joe expanded that emergency response times will be increased, if Gregory would become impassable due to a spill or major wreck, we would become isolated and “partially cut off.” He went on to say that they received word that Black Hawk’s main street project will be set back two weeks because they can’t get asphalt and questioned where Central will be getting asphalt for Lawrence Street, creating an unfinished and unsafe Lawrence Street until the spring thaw. Joe respectfully requested the city reconsider their previous decision and to put off the project until the risks are lower and conditions are better.
John Zimpel, General Manager of Johnny Z’s Casino, next spoke to the Council. “In light of the most recent events regarding the catastrophic flooding and local road closures, I ask that you postpone the Lawrence Street Water Project until a solution to the Gregory Street detour could be solved.” John went on to expound that “when the next rock slide” on Highway 119 closes the road, the construction stop lights will not be able to handle the load of additional traffic. Traffic will be back up through town and take hours to clear.
Ann Dodson, General Manager of Famous Bonanza Casino, shared her thoughts with the Council. Ann started by saying she was disappointed that the project is not delayed and understood that things were worked out to widen Gregory. Ann stated that “we are getting worried about Central City,” with Doc Holliday’s closing earlier this summer, “Bevie Sue’s is closing,” and “Harley Hippies is closing.” All our businesses deserve your support, exclaimed Ann. She recommends the city spends $10,000 minimum to advertise right now that the city is open for business and that access is open. Ann added that “lights are stupid, they don’t know what’s going on,” and that “flaggers can adjust.” City Manager Lanning confirmed that using flaggers for the entire project would have cost $120,000. The current project is costing $21,000 for traffic control.
Roy Varela of Heritage West Realty stood up to share his opinions with the Council. “I’ve never seen the thousands of trucks I’m seeing now,” he declared referring to the construction trucks travelling highway 119. He stated that earlier today, trying to pull out into traffic from Heritage West onto lower Lawrence Street; it took him nine minutes of watching traffic go by before he had an opening. Roy recommended postponing the project until spring with the Creepy Crawls, Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up.
Mayor Ron Engels reviewed the results of the special session called the prior week and stated that the project has started and we don’t have a desire to change that trajectory. John Zimpel spoke up saying they submitted a proposal for a larger contribution to the City, but Mayor Engel responded that the information was received the day after the deadline and the Council’s decision was made. Alderman Gaines added that we have residents that are currently on a section of line that has failed. One resident is currently getting water from their neighbor’s garden hose. Mayor Engel suggested that they are discussing these things on the wrong end of the project and these concerns should have been raised at prior meetings. John Zimpel informed the council that he got the request to contribute funds while he was in Vegas and couldn’t give them a firm number until he returned. Joe Behm said that what they are trying to say is that the people here will be happy to pay the difference to get the Gregory Street widening done.
The council inquired of staff what the additional cost estimate would be to halt the Lawrence Street Project at this point and get an estimate for that in addition to the Gregory Street widening. Manager Lanning stated that he could start talking with the contractor in the morning and the council would have something concrete to vote on when they meet on Thursday for their budget meeting. John Zimpel, speaking on behalf of the other general managers and business owners, stated that he would “guarantee $27,000” to get the job done. Mayor Engels directed staff to get an estimate while work continues on Lawrence for a decision on Thursday, October 3rd.
The Central City Council will meet again on Thursday, October 3rd for a special session and budget workshop. The next Council Meeting will be Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00pm.