The City government sets its budget on a two year cycle. Though most of it is already spoken for, there’s still the cream at the top that can be distributed at the discretion of the City Council. And the City Council makes their decision based on several factors, including input from local residents.
City staff has been hard at work over the past few months putting together “offers,” which are kind of like grant requests. Essentially each department comes up with needs that aren’t being covered under the current budget, special projects that they’d like to see accomplished, or items that would greatly improve their ability to do their jobs, and they put them in a “Budgeting for Outcomes” (BFO) offer. They have to show that their offer will be useful in reaching several of the City’s goals, or “outcomes.”
- Culture and Recreation
- Neighborhood Livability & Social Health
- High Performing Government
- Safe Community
- Environmental Health
- Economic Health
Now is your opportunity to let the City know what you think about how money should be spent. Just click through to the City Manager’s budget page and make your own budget recommendations.
If you’ve given input in the past, you’ll find that this year there’s a whole new online app in place in which to vote your dollars. It’s run by a company called Balancing Act.
If you don’t have access to a computer or just plain don’t want to use the app, you can visit a the Communications and Public Involvement office at 215 N. Mason Street (right across from the Downtown Transit Center). You can also call them at 970.416.2209 or send them an email at email@example.com.
There’s a whole lot more than just preservation issues, so be sure to glance through each area to see what’s listed. (If you want to know more about transportation issues, I just published an article on Pedal Fort Collins that lists most of the transportation related items and highlights a few noteworthy offers that might be of particular interest.)
Three of the preservation related offers are listed under the heading “Economic Health.” I just want to point out, however, that preservation is also an important tool to help strengthen community, support the local and global environment, and it even has some positive transportation impacts. I’ve included a fourth offer in the list because, although it doesn’t deal directly with preservation issues, within some neighborhoods, it could have an effect. (Although I list it last, it actually comes first in the Balancing Act app. It’s listed under Neighborhood Livability & Social Health.)
Offer 25.4: Car Barn Refurbishment
“These one-time funds will refurbish the historic structure, built in 1919, to a basic level sufficient for it to be leased or provided for use to a private or non-profit entity.” The staff is estimating it will cost $3.25 million to put in new heating and air conditioning, a hot water system, a new roof, windows that open, a subfloor where there’s currently only a dirt floor, and to do any needed environmental mitigation (which, from what the trolley folks have told me, is substantial — thank you mice, bats, etc.).
The Food Co-op is really hoping to move into this location. It would give them the opportunity to expand, and it would provide an outdoor market space so that the farmers market could be moved from the county building on W. Oak. But though the budget offer mentions “community market,” they also leave the possibility open that another organization could move in instead.
It’s important to note that the Streetcar Barn is already being used by two organizations. As the budget offer describes:
Current Users: The main hall, which is roughly 50% of the facility, is used for municipal storage, including a historic fire engine, trolley, and bus. 30% of the facility is climate controlled, and used by the Museum of Discovery for exhibit storage. The remaining 20% of the barn includes bathroom facilities, the office of the Fort Collins Municipal Railway Society, and additional unused space.
It’s not entirely clear if they would both be able to continuing using the space or not. I suspect that will all depend on who they find to lease the building when the time comes.
Offer 78.8: Historic Preservation/IT Interactive Website and Digitization Project
I think this is a particularly exciting offer. Not only will it be a boon to historians and people looking up the history of their house or looking for information on family members, but it could also improve the permitting process for developers and home owners wanting to make alterations to their property.
What’s being proposed is essentially to take all the substantial information that the City has already regarding our landmarked buildings, and even many non-landmarked buildings, and make it easily accessible online. It’s not like this information isn’t already available. But right now you have to go in to the City office, ask to be let in to see the files, then dig around until you find what you’re looking for.
This offer would include adding software that would enable surveyors to go out in the field and, while standing in front of the building in question, not only look up information about it, but potentially even add information regarding that structure. This would make surveying a much faster, more streamlined process. And the more surveying that can be done in advance, the more information will be on hand not only for home owners, but for developers as well — further streamlining the development process.
And one more huge bonus tied into this offer would be an interactive map that could help users access up-to-date information regarding historic resources throughout the city.
This could be a real game changer in making future development a smoother, speedier process. Historic preservation is all about historic resources, but the tools the department uses don’t have to be mired in ancient history as well. I love the idea that the preservation department could be bringing their information capture and delivery system into the twenty first century.
Offer 78.10: Historic Preservation Ordinance Review
This offer is a lot more boring than the two I’ve listed above, but it’s certainly needed. Over the past year and a half or so, it’s become clear that the last time the preservation sections of the land use code were updated, some things were missed. Part of the problem is that until you actually deal with a specific situation, you don’t know for sure how the code is going to play out. So something that might sound really reasonable or comprehensive or what have you when it’s first written, might turn out to have some holes or problem points when it comes down to the nitty gritty.
This BFO offer would hire an outside consultant to come in and take a look at our code with fresh eyes and differing experiences to help us catch things that have been missed and streamline what we have. Only City Council can make a change in the code, but this will provide an update that the City Council can then consider.
Offer 75.9: Neighborhood Improvement and Community Building Grant Fund
The City is starting a new program called Neighborhood Connections that will help residents better determine needs within their neighborhood and then communicate those needs to city staff. Offer 75.9 will provide some funds so that once those needs are identified, there will be money to follow through on some of them. Ideas of ways the funds could be used include:
- Sidewalk/bike path connections, off-street trails, and ADA accessibility
- New playground equipment and upgrades in neighborhood parks
- Planning/design/public art
- Traffic calming
- Race and social justice initiatives
- Energy efficiency upgrades
- Streetscape improvements and urban design
- Low- or no-cost loans for housing reinvestment in an effort to infuse private funds into neighborhood rehabilitation
- Neighborhood-organizing efforts to engage residents in their community
- Neighborhood cleanups and community events
- Incentive-based community contests focused on outcomes and solutions, e.g., how would you engage your neighborhood residents in the Climate Action Plan
Like I said, this last offer isn’t directly related to preservation, but anything that helps to keep an older neighborhood comfortable, livable, and safe is going to help keep those older houses well maintained and loved.
There are a lot of offers on the table for the City Council to consider. Take some time to look them over, and make your own budget recommendations.