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The Salida City Council Oct. 18 meeting was book-ended with elements of frustration expressed both at the beginning and at the end of the evening. Sandwiched in between, the “meat” of the meeting (three resolutions, a budget and one ordinance) all were approved unanimously. Readers interested in hearing the details can watch the YouTube recording on the City of Salida Channel.

Nuisance Properties are Focus of Citizen Comment

While seating at Salida City Council meetings was not open during the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance is now possible. Merrell Bergin photo

Walnut Street resident Doug Mendelson said he was representing neighbors in the Thompson subdivision who are banding together because of multiple nuisance properties in the area. “The city is not doing anything about these in a constructive manner,” he said. “Older residents are concerned about safety, even needing to get Post Office Boxes to avoid their own mailboxes. Kids are shooting out windows in abandoned homes, there’s smells in the alleys and streets and it’s lowering the value of our neighborhood…”, he added.

Mendelson pointed out photos he had submitted to council members of four properties and then called out the Edelman property and said that cleanup efforts had been ongoing for some 26 months and [in his opinion] were ineffective. He cited municipal codes and claimed that the city can abate, hire contractors to clean up and charge the owners. He complained that the police are only giving summonses and the courts are only giving continuances, but he wants the city to file tax liens and foreclose if necessary.

During council member reports, Harald Kasper asked Administrator Drew Nelson if the ordinances Mendelson cited might be used to move remediation and compliance along faster. Citing “pending court matters…the city should not intervene with those…so they are in a holding pattern…we need to allow it to run its course. Nelson said there is precedence that a court could order the Administrator to abate.

Nelson then cautioned that property owners have tremendous rights that need to be protected and that “there are underlying conditions that not everyone is aware of.” He said that both the municipal and county courts are involved but that the municipal court is limited currently only to ordering fines. (See editor’s note below.)

The 100-110 D Street and adjoining East First Street Apartments go back five years or more, resulting in all tenants there being made homeless – the property is still being abated for asbestos prior to demolition.  The second floor apartments at 117-1/2 F Street were deemed uninhabitable last winter, all tenants were locked out and downstairs retail tenants are still affected by water leaks.  There is no apparent activity underway to pursue the owners who are out of state and that property will likely remain vacant until further deterioration forces a change.

It would appear that property owner rights notwithstanding, that in order to accelerate fix-up and compliance that the city may need to revamp its codes as well as incorporate specific enforcement language into any eventual Home Rule Charter.

New Business/Action Items

  • Council members approved an amplified sound permit for an additional 12 events at the 146 Taphouse on West First Street, bringing to 72 the total that may be held through November. A condition was added to prohibit noise from emanating from any open doors on First Street after the approved 10:00 p.m. sound limit.
  • In Resolution 2022-50, the 2023 City of Salida Budget passed after hearing a presentation by Finance Director Aimee Tihonovich and upon receiving no input from the public during the open hearing. Except for a $15 million placeholder for the proposed new fire station, the total budget is approximately $1.5 million less than the 2022 budget.
  • Clearly supportive of continuing, multi-faceted efforts to address the workforce housing crisis, council members used their statutory authority to pass three resolutions supporting Ballot Issues 2A, 2B and 2D. The measures (if passed by voters) will increase Occupational Lodging Tax (OLT) and license fees on short terms rentals as well as reaffirm support for the high-density Salida Bottling Company planned development on West First Street.

Mayor, Council, and Treasurer Reports

Wrapping up the Mayor and Council reports, council member Justin Critelli sought to address a controversy that arose recently when he walked away from a meeting involving a group concerned about homeless clients and activities at the Caring and Sharing complex on G Street. The confrontation evolved into apparent verbal attacks on both the shelter as well as the council member.

Critelli said he left “to get some air …”  He used his report to frame the situation and affirm his support for aiding the unsheltered and to work within legal means to help address the equal rights of both those clients as well as neighbors. Readers may listen to the complete remarks at 1:18:05 into the recording of the council meeting.

Treasurer Report

Treasurer Merrell Bergin reported on sales tax collections for the month of August, a month that was almost as high as the record July sales tax.

Bergin noted that August City sales tax collections increased by $66,645 (7.5 percent) as compared to August 2021. The City’s portion of Chaffee County sales tax collections increased by $47,189, a 15.1 percent increase over August 2021. In total, sales tax receipts are 9.5 percent higher for August and 4.1 percent higher year-to-date. Actual collections are ahead of budget by 3.2 percent year-to-date.

Concluding his report, Bergin stated that the city Operating Fund revenues through August are tracking above budget, expenses are below budget and fund balances also show a favorable variance.

Editor’s Note: Ark Valley Voice does not yet know to what the City Administrator was referring to when he said “there are underlying conditions that not everyone is aware of.” But, in the last 15 years, the City of Salida has dealt with multiple deteriorating downtown properties, fighting battles for years with owners and ultimately forcing rehabilitation or condemnation. For instance, efforts to stabilize the Unique Theater (Opera House) on West First Street date back to 2007, where after citations and multiple changes of ownership that property was eventually completely redone.