Council needs more time on senior center plans

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — City Council will get more time to decide the fate of the former senior center.

During its May 6 meeting, council voted 4-3 to suspend action on the second reading of an ordinance that would designate the former senior center as a local historic landmark, so further discussion can take place.

Councilmembers Lynn Baca, Rex Bell, J.W. Edwards and Joan Kniss voted for the temporary suspension while Mayor Pro Tem Kirby Wallin and council members Mark Humbert and Cynthia Martinez had the dissenting votes. Mayor Dick McLean and Councilman Ken Kreutzer were excused from the meeting and did not vote. 

City Manager Manuel Esquibel said, in explaining the vote, he believes the confusion council members may have is in regards to what council would like to do with the building — whether it would like to continue owning the building and what the city’s responsibilities are for maintaining and continuing to maintain the building.

“Staff’s recommendation at this point in time, should you consider as an option, would be that we bring this whole package back to you again at a study session looking not only at the historic preservation side... and allow the council to take some time to really think about the other issues,” he said.

Edwards made the motion, saying he still has a lot of questions about the matter, and Kniss seconded the motion because she said she also would like more time. 

Bell said he personally was not in favor of the motion but would support it out of respect for members requesting more time. Baca said she researched the process on how council got to this point and was in favor of a temporary suspension.

“We need to do it right the first time and I don’t want any doubt in any council member’s mind ... I think that it’s important to take the steps to do this correctly, and I would be in favor of taking some additional times to go over those items,” she said. 

Martinez said she was not in favor of the motion and would be disappointed if it went through. She said the Historic Preservation Committee has studied and evaluated the building, that city staff had looked at the finances, and pointed out the building continues to sit there vacant.

“We’ve used it for temporary issues — for the youth commission or if somebody really needs something – but we’ve actually let it sit there and get worse. We’ve actually let it sit there, and it’s costing us more money because we haven’t done anything with it, so I’m really disappointed in this process,” she said, later adding that see hopes it eventually passes as a historic landmark because its the original historic city hall. 

In other business:

— With city council’s unanimous approval, the Parks and Recreation Department will be submitting a $2-million grant application to the Natural Resource Damages Trustees of the Northeast Greenway Corridor for the Ken Mitchell Open Space and Plate River wildlife habitat restoration project. 

Director Gary Wardle said the project is not part of the trail project and that the grant will be used for habitat restoration, improvements for fish habitat and improvements to the river. He said Ready Mixed Concrete plans on donating the Aichelman house to the city and that he would also like to purchase 16 acres of property around the house for habitat restoration with the grant. He said the company has the acreage slated for commercial development but he would rather use it to preserve the entrance off the old Brighton Road as well as for additional wildlife habitat.

The city’s portion of the restoration project is $4 million, and the grant would cover half of the cost. Wardle would like to apply for more grants to help the city fund the remaining $2 million. He anticipates the project to take place around 2016 or 2017. 

— The city will be using $324,200 in Community Development Block Grants to make the bathrooms in city hall compliant with the American Disabilities Act. In a 7-0 vote, council approved a contract with H.W. Houston. 

— In a 7-0 vote, council adopted a grants management policy that will utilize best practices in searching for grants, applying for grants and managing grants after they’ve been awarded. The policy also allows for the formation of a Grants Oversight Committee and on-site grant research training for city staff and nonprofits.

— Council also proclaimed May 17 National Kids to Parks Day, proclaimed May as archeology and historic preservation month, recognized Ethan Thomas-Gonzales for the creation of a buddy bench at Thimmig Elementary School and said farewell to graduating members of the Brighton Youth Commission. Graduating youth commissioners included Brandy Chaparro, Kya Miller, Mariio Macias and Loni Farina.

— Council canceled its May 20 meeting and scheduled a special council meeting for 7 p.m. May 27.