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ColoPressAssn
July 30, 2015 Vol. 14 No. 36
Grant for new City Hall would have high cost
Written by Jeanne Davant   

Chamber Music Festival

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Top, Sarah Phillips, assistant concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, plays her violin during the July 25 student concert at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

Middle, from left, Mackensie Alons plays piano (with Sarah Phillips turning her pages) and Sarah Wilson plays the cello.

Above, Shelly Tramposh, associate professor of viola at the Crane School of Music/SUNY Potsdam, plays the violin as festival artistic director Cullan Bryant plays the piano.

The festival continues with “Culmination,” a faculty performance of works by Haydn, Enescu and Shostakovich, 7:30 p.m. July 31; and student concerts at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 2. All concerts will be at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 808 Manitou Ave.

Photos by Travis Lowell

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Manitou Springs has the opportunity to apply for a $25 million grant to finance the relocation of City Hall to a site that would keep it safe from flooding.

The grant would come at a high price, however — it would require that the historic City Hall building be torn down.

That is a price the community might not be willing to pay, several City Council members said Tuesday.

In the event of a severe flood — one worse than Manitou experienced in 2013 — Manitou Springs City Hall could be inundated by 12 feet of water, crippling the city’s ability to provide critical services such as police and fire, Police Chief Joe Ribeiro told Council at a work session.

Each time there is a flood warning, City Hall is evacuated and the Police Department moves its fleet of nine vehicles to a site above the elementary school, Ribeiro said.

The building has been evacuated 15 times in 2013, seven times in 2014 and five times so far this year. Flood damage to the building has caused the city to file three insurance claims.

Ribeiro said he had learned recently that grant funds were available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for purchase of land away from the flood plain and reconstruction of City Hall.

As a first step in applying for the grant, Ribeiro asked Council to consider funding a study of the space that would be needed for a new city hall.

City employees and police officers are working in extremely crowded conditions, Ribeiro said. The study, a needs assessment and preliminary site design, would provide valuable data that could not only be used for grant applications but also would help the city plan for future needs.

The study would cost $42,000, and the state Department of Local Affairs would cover half that amount.

Ribeiro said he has developed a relationship with DLR Group, a Colorado Springs architecture and engineering firm that has already provided a high-level preliminary needs assessment at no charge. The firm could complete the study before the Aug. 31 deadline for applying for the FEMA funds.

“This came on us very fast,” Ribeiro said. “It went from visionary and hoping, to we might have a chance.”

“I personally feel it’s way too fast,” Councilwoman Nicole Nicoletta said. “I need a better understanding of things.”

Councilman Gary Smith said he was concerned about sending the wrong message to the community by moving ahead with the grant application without extensive public input.

“A lot of investigation needs to go into this,” Smith said. “I think we need to look at maybe a different way to move police and fire.”

According to historian Deborah Harrison, the building at 606 Manitou Ave. has served as Manitou’s city hall since the late 1940s and still has its original red-clay tile roof.

Built in 1910 as a pavilion for the Mansions Spring, it was enlarged in 1920 and became the popular Lorraine Gardens dance hall.

During the Great Depression, it housed headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program created as part of the New Deal. During World War II, it served as a USO center.

The Historic Preservation Commission has the power to approve or deny building alterations, including demolition, and new construction in the Historic District.

Historic Preservation Commission member Molly Wingate said demolition of the building “would have a very large ripple effect. What does it mean to take out the first big historic building (in town)? What does it mean to other historic buildings along the avenue? It would kick the guts out of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Mayor Pro Tem Coreen Toll said she was in favor of funding the needs assessment and then having a lot of dialogue about the grant application and its implications.

“I think it is our responsibility to think about continuity of operations,” Toll said. “We’re talking about having a building that is safe. We’re starting a public process right here tonight.”

Mayor Marc Snyder and Council members Becky Elder and Randy Hodges also supported moving forward with the needs assessment.

City Administrator Jason Wells said it would be nearly impossible for the city to prepare a grant application by Aug. 31 but that the city could apply for the funds next year.

“I don’t think this is a one-time opportunity,” Wells said. If the city proceeds with the needs assessment, “we’ll be well-situated and in pretty good standing if and when the community dictates this is a sensible course.”

Council members will vote Aug. 4 on whether to authorize Snyder to sign a formal request to the Department of Local Affairs for a grant to fund all or part of the needs assessment.