Anyone who has recently made a night trip through Ute Pass on U.S. 24 has experienced the 18-mile-long Ute Pass Fiber Project.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is installing fiber lines from the Woodland Park Walmart to the Walmart on 8th Street in Colorado Springs. El Paso County gets half of those lines, about 168 lines. Woodland Park has negotiated a flexible contract for 24 of El Paso County’s lines. The rest of the fiber belongs to CDOT.
Once installation is complete, the city will extend its fiber lines to city hall and the police department. Since it will likely need only two of the lines, the rest could be shared through public/private partnerships. While the installation costs might be covered by leasing the rest of the lines, the intent is not to make fiber another city enterprise.
Woodland Park’s 2019 budget has a $40,000 line item to explore bringing fiber to the city. This project saves the city the cost of bringing fiber in by itself — a savings of about $300,000.
If the fiber is damaged, the city would pay only for the repair of its 24 lines, or about 14 percent of the total cost. Since the fiber is embedded in the CDOT right of way where no construction will be allowed, there is little chance that it will ever need repairs.
In other business, Council discussed a request by the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority to replace Councilwoman Kellie Case as liaison to the authority board.
Merry Jo Larsen, authority board chair, said Case missed several meetings and that there were other issues. “We need a liaison who is more a part of the group,” she said.
Case said she missed a few meetings but always cleared her absences with the board’s assistant administrator.
“I’ve done my job,” she said. “I’ve expressed my opinion on the existence of the DDA and I’ve spoken my mind.”
Case took issue with the way she was asked to step down. It was done in a public meeting without notice.
Mayor Neil Levy asked her what her wishes are. Case said while she is willing to stay in the position, she probably won’t be effective as DDA liaison if the board doesn’t want her and that she will respect the decision of council.
“I’d like to see the meetings run properly, orderly and openly. Packets and agendas should be published. There should be more order and better leadership,” Case said.
Councilman Noel Sawyer, who served as DDA liaison previously to Case and whom the authority board suggested should come back, said, “The board feels that council is trying to run them: Us versus Them. We have to mend that fence, rebuild that bridge. I think I can do that.”
Mayor Pro Tem Val Carr said sending a council liaison as a voting member of an authority board is required by state statute but it puts the liaison in the uncomfortable position of wearing too many hats.
“My issue is about the process,” Levy said. “I don’t think the DDA should tell us who we should appoint to its board.”
With that, council decided to take no action and leave Case in her liaison position.
An appeal by Pete LaBarre to council on one of the conditions the city is requiring for his Village at Tamarac project was tabled to the Sept. 19 while the appeal of the city’s approval of the project by citizen groups are finished by the Board of Adjustment. Councilwoman Hilary LaBarre recused herself from the vote.
The Board of Adjustment is now full with the appointment of Catherine Nakai as an alternate.
Additionally, Lynn Jones and Stephanie Alfieri, representing the Woodland Park Main Street Committee, presented a slide show of accomplishments throughout 2019 and asked for $15,000 for its 2020 budget. This is the same amount the program received last year.
Also, Council granted Rhapsody LLC owner Erin O’Connell a liquor license for a bar she is opening in the old Lush Building at 121 W. Midland Ave.