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This week, Ark Valley Voice is running a series of interviews with all Salida city council members and Mayor P.T. Wood, providing an overview of the state of the city. The series of interviews has been contributed by Lawton Eddy and Joe Jordan.

The mayor and every city council member were asked the same five questions. What has gone well with the current city council? What has this city council accomplished? What are the city’s “works in progress”? What are the lessons learned and the changes or improvements that resulted? What are the shortcomings – what could be done better – and what are your hopes for the new council going forward?

Some responded to all questions. Others chose not to respond to one or more questions. Beginning yesterday and continuing through Friday, Aug. 30, Ark Valley Voice is running the series. We have not edited the responses other than for grammatical or syntax errors.

Question 2: What has the current council accomplished?

Cheryl Brown Kovacic and Mayor P.T. Wood provided a list of accomplishments which follows. Many items were reiterated by other council members below.

Kept water rates at the current level.
Expanded staff to deal with city growth.
Corrected inherited financial difficulties, bringing audits, state and agency reports, balances, etc. up-to-date and in line with state requirements.
Code changes to incentivize affordable and rental housing.
A code change to require a mix of housing economic levels in all new construction with incentives to builders.
Conducted TABOR refund.
Legal work to return Vandaveer property to the city.
Paved and replaced streets, sidewalks and water/sewer infrastructure.
Improved outdoor patio regulations.
Increased the amount of Community Funding to non-profits.
Made airport improvements.
Increased work and funding for Salida Tree Board planting and maintenance programs.
Completed repairs on F Street bridge.
Built new pickleball courts in Centennial Park.
Golf course water rights to fill ponds.
New all-purpose maintenance building for the use of Fire, Police and Public Works Department.
Established goals for the year.
Completed and opened Scout Hut (using grant funding).
Adopted two budgets.
Raised Occupational Lodging Tax.
Increased Community Grant funding by 25 percent.
Establishing responsibilities for elected treasurer.
Began exploring a vision for growth on Hwy 50 (grant funding).
Received a grant for electric car charging stations, installed three dual-port level two chargers.
Bringing fiber-optic broadband to city buildings and Riverside Park.
Oversaw installation of free Wifi downtown.

Cheryl Brown-Kovacic

CBK added the following to the list above —
We created incentives to builders to create affordable housing like density bonuses, setback variations, discounted and delayed fee payments.
Our Inclusionary Housing requirement resulted in eight permanently affordable homes in Two Rivers.
We have commitments to move to 100 percent solar with a contractor who will reduce costs.
Short Term Rental regulation enforcement and compliance have improved with a half time position dedicated to this.
Every department is running smoothly with accomplished, knowledgeable department heads. The city has a solid base and is running smoothly.

Mayor P.T. Wood:

PTW added the following to the list above —
An accomplishment and a work in progress are the decisions made and direction is taken to create a sound financial base for the city.
Much effort has been put into ensuring that the city is financially strong with a plan for the future. Hiring Aimee Tihonovich as financial director was a great step in that direction.
We are bringing on an expert financial advisor and we selected a city administrator capable of guiding us through a bad budget situation.
The decision to bring on a municipal financial consultant is to create a 5 to 10-year capital improvement plan with a roadmap rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to needs. We’ll know how best to invest municipal assets for the best return. We’ll know the best way to pay for large projects when they arise and how to plan for them – like a new fire station for example.
This master plan will keep our planning realistic – for example – how can city facilities pay for themselves? How do we set aside funds for the SteamPlant and pool while keeping them accessible to our locals?
There is a much greater awareness of concrete financial needs and priorities. We can see where we need to plug something in to a capital improvement plan, and what year to plug it in.

Dan Shore:

We increased merit pay for years of service from $100 to $1,000 for 40 years.
We did the right thing and settled Dara MacDonald’s severance pay.
We’ve hired qualified, knowledgeable, experienced department heads.
As a result of hard work and persistence with the Union Pacific Railroad, we have more public parking.
We changed the city attorney scope of work with checks and balances in place to prevent things like investigations at taxpayer expense into the lives of private citizens and council members with dissenting points of view.
We supported A Church, which is an excellent community asset rather than losing it to partisan politics.

Harald Kasper:

Fighting and lawsuits from the past have been cleared up so we can make Vandaveer an actual benefit for Salida. Now we can start the community engagement process.
There are studies in place and expert opinions being gathered to make the next steps happen at Vandaveer.
Inclusionary zoning was implemented. The one year review is coming up so we can assess how it has worked.

Mike Bowers:

The City has Vandaveer back.
Vandaveer is very important and is a priority. It was hung up for a long time for many reasons. We need to make it happen.

Justin Critelli:

We’re embracing the needs assessment about housing needs and grasp what is truly involved in the housing crisis.
We’ve implemented inclusionary zoning. There is a willingness to be bold, to do what it takes, like donate land, be flexible with fees and regulations.
We’re making efforts towards better broadband to support a remote workforce – we were able to get that issue on the ballot.
Many of my constituents are in the marijuana industry. We got the marijuana license transfer on the ballot and addressed it.

Jane Templeton:

We talk regularly about what we can do about affordable housing.
Paying severance pay to Dara MacDonald sent a great message to current employees that we care about justice and fairness.
We hired an independent company for the evaluation of Drew Nelson. The consultant sought out a range of individuals in the process with a range of opinions. Council was prepared to accept the recommendation of the impartial consultant.
There is great communication between the council and Drew Nelson.
Mayor P.T. Wood and Drew Nelson were able to get a difficult agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for parking.

Coming up Next: What are the city’s “works in progress”?