Buena Vista trustees’ meeting introduces candidate for city trustee – by Landon James

The Buena Vista Board of Directors (BOT) convened its regular bi-monthly meeting last Tuesday, July 26 with a single addendum to the agenda. The usual working session held before each public meeting was replaced by a special meeting with the candidate administrator of the city of BV and the hopeful Lisa Parnell-Rowe.

At 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, Parnell-Rowe addressed the BOT and the community audience with her best case for why she should be BV’s next city administrator. Using slides, Parnell-Rowe guided the BOT and the audience through his educational and professional history and relative experience for the role of city administrator.

A finalist for the position of Buena Vista City Trustee, Lisa Parnell-Rowe was the special guest at the July 26 Buena Vista Trustees meeting. Photo by Landon James,

One slide referenced an article by Christina Benty titled “The Seven Vital Qualities to Look for in Your Local Leader”. The essential qualities described in the article are: prepared, relationship builder, team player, approachable, emotionally mature, financial savvy and critical thinker. Parnell-Rowe is committed to embodying each of these characteristics to the fullest if she is given the opportunity to serve as a Buena Vista City Administrator.

After concluding his presentation, Parnell-Rowe answered questions directly from the BOT, then took the time to shake hands and greet everyone present.

Infrastructure progress

Phillip Puckett, currently acting city administrator and city treasurer, began the reports by announcing that the new Buena Vista police station had opened with an expected end date of spring 2023.

Puckett updated the BOT on the Bray-Allen Extension water right. He pointed out that funds for this purchase had not yet been allocated in the 2022 budget and proposed that $400,000 be withdrawn from the Water Fund to make the first installment of payment to the Bray-Allen extension.

In April 2022, City Council approved a purchase agreement for $1.2 million to be paid in installments of $400,000 each, over the next three years (2022-2024). Additionally, Puckett proposed that an additional $50,000 be allocated from the Water Fund to cover engineering and legal costs that are part of the water court proceedings for the Bray-Allen Extension. The amendment to the initial budget for the purchase of the Bray-Allen extension was approved unanimously.

Shining Mountains Montessori School

Lisa Lamb, principal of Shining Mountains Montessori School, gave an update on the school and the proposed construction of a daycare center on Carbonate Street. Lamb gave a presentation showing the progress and evolution of the Shining Mountains Montessori school.

Lisa Parnell-Rowe presents to the Buena Vista Board of Directors and the public on July 26. Photo by Landon James.

She asked for support for her efforts to build a 4,400 square foot day care center on Carbonate Street, which she said would serve the city for at least the next five to 10 years. She explained that child care centers in the area are severely understaffed and ill-prepared to support the level of child care needed to serve the community and asked for help.

“I have intense hope that Carbonate Street will become a reality,” Lamb said. Although Lamb is prepared to lead the project and knows the basic parameters under which the facility should be built, no firm path has been established regarding the execution of this plan.

The proposed 4,400 square foot facility would aim to serve 46 children aged three months to six years. This would include a preschool classroom, two for toddlers and one for infants.

Lamb presented the BOT with several possible funding/grant options, including the Equity in Community Innovation and Resilience in Care and Learning Grant, the Community-Based Child Care Grant, employer and emerging and expanding child care subsidy programs. At the July 26 BOT meeting, the daycare did not apply for any of the grants; these are options they are considering as possible funding sources.

Currently, Shining Mountains Montessori School is an Official Colorado Child Care Assistance Provider (CCCAP) and is seeking support from the BOT to pursue funding plans to make a new daycare a reality on Carbonate Street.

Led by Director of Planning Joseph Teipel, a motion was put forward to commit to building the core and shell of the future facility while simultaneously asking the BOT to “step into the unknown” regarding the future of this project. It passed unanimously.

“It’s a big step,” exclaimed Mayor Libby Fay.

Housing Voting Question

Chaffee County Housing Authority Director Becky Gray presented the Housing Authority’s proposed tax measure for November’s general election ballot to acquire sustainable local funding to help address the growing housing crisis in the count.

Gray presented the proposal which, if passed, would provide regular and consistent annual funding to support housing projects.

In addition to providing more housing, the benefits would include allowing local businesses and the city to recruit and retain talented workers. She acknowledged that the needs exceed the supply.

“Resources will never match needs,” Gray said.

Gray says county rents are up 50% since 2016, and 49% of renters can’t afford more than $1,000/month. Only nine percent of county residents have the income to enter the local housing market, and the average home price has increased 41 percent between 2020 and 2022.

To address this ever-growing problem, Gray announced that the Chaffee County Housing Authority board had voted to approve a $3.5 million “ad valorem” tax increase for all local landlords to begin fund county housing projects.

Immediately there was resistance from the BOT and Administrator Devin Rowe and Administrator Cindy Swisher who expressed concerns about raising taxes for homeowners who are already struggling. Swisher pointed out that property taxes on her own personal and business property have already been increased over the past few years and that any further increases raise concerns for her and other property owners.

Rowe pointed out that if property taxes are increased for local landlords, rent will most likely increase exponentially for current and future tenants. Gray immediately acknowledged the directors’ concerns and clarified the details regarding the proposed voting question.

“A $3.5 million increase in property taxes will cost less than $10/month for residential owners and less than $34/month for commercial owners. Annually, that’s less than $120/year for residential owners and less than $420/year for commercial owners,” Gray said.

While Gray couldn’t say whether this tax increase would result in landlords raising rents, she expressed hope that the move would also educate landlords and unfair tenancy practices while simultaneously protecting tenants’ rights.

Despite the hesitation of several board members, Trustee Swisher proposed putting the proposed tax increase on the local election ballot and allowing BV residents to decide for themselves. The motion passed unanimously.

Expansion of the water treatment plant

Planning Director Shawn Williams reviewed a proposal to approve a Notice of Award (NOA) to Stanek Constructors in the amount of $12,000 for the water treatment plant expansion project and the role of Director of Construction at Risk (CMAR). Additionally, Williams has requested approval for a design phase services agreement with Stanek Constructors to complete this project.

After a lengthy and detailed breakdown of the project and legal documents, in addition to providing information on every Stanek Constructors employee involved in the project, a motion was moved to approve Resolution No. 57, 2022 Series giving Stanek Constructors the permission to begin work on the Water Plant Expansion Project. It passed unanimously.

Planning Director Joseph Teipel reported on the progress of the construction of the new BV police station. The City has officially received the DOLA grant of $600,000 allocated for the construction of the new facility.

Construction began with demolition work. Since the meeting of July 26, the replacement of conduits, plumbing and the exterior water pipe has been in progress.

The BOT unanimously approved Resolution No. 58, Series 2022 for the full construction contract with MW Golden Constructors in the amount of $4,078,238 for a guaranteed maximum price (GMA) contract. This means that the City can be assured that the price will not exceed this amount, unless a monumental setback or major unknown conditions appear on the surface during construction.

City Budget 2023

Phillip Puckett then took the floor to kick off the 2023 budget process. He quickly ran through the 2023 projections and compared them to the 2022 numbers. The 2022-2023 fiscal year will mark Puckett’s first year as city treasurer. and the BOT expressed excitement and satisfaction with Puckett’s projections for the coming year.

Puckett then moved on to the 2022 mid-year compensation plan update. After discussing several different options and addressing the growing inflation crisis and how it affects city staff, Puckett proposed a raise four percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) salary for all current staff.

Puckett said this option would relieve city staff while allowing time to assess other factors during the 2023 budget process. Puckett said the city would still expect an additional COLA/Merit increase. for 2023.

A motion was moved to approve COLA’s four percent salary increase and passed with unanimous consent.

The final piece of the case was the proposal for the city administrator to agree to keep the opioid settlement funds and then sign an intergovernmental agreement with Chaffee County to redistribute the money to public health in the county of Chaffee for opioid response and relief efforts. It was voted unanimously by roll call.

“We really appreciate all the extra work you put in,” Mayor Libby Fay said of Puckett’s (temporary) dual municipal duties.

Recreation Supervisor Shane Basford also announced that construction of the new pickleball courts has begun and expected completion is October this year.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on Tuesday, August 9 in the Piñon Room of the BV Community Center.

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