July 20, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 35
Council approves Brook Street bridge rehab contract
Written by Jeanne Davant   

Breaking news

072017_WaterMainBreak 072017_WaterMainBreak_Nicoletta

A water main break in the 300 block of Manitou Avenue forced a road closure at approximately 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 18. Public Services Director Shelley Cobau, who was on scene, said the water main belongs to Colorado Springs Utilities; CSU crews will be working to repair the water infrastructure and damage to the roadway. To avoid this area and the Westside Avenue Action Plan project construction, eastbound drivers should detour via Old Man’s Trail or Mayfair Avenue to take El Paso Boulevard; westbound drivers should take West Colorado Avenue to Columbia Road and El Paso Boulevard.

Top, a Manitou Springs city worker calls for reinforcements.

Above, Mayor Nicole Nicoletta talks to a truck driver while helping direct traffic..

Photos by Rhonda Van Pelt

In response to continued pressure from citizens, Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday authorized a $237,458 contract with Murphy Constructors to rehabilitate the Brook Street bridge.

Before an audience that packed Council chambers and overflowed into City Hall’s foyer, Council voted unanimously to approve the contract after a brief discussion that lacked the contentiousness of previous dialogues. In doing so, Councilors rejected a proposed contract with Amec Foster Wheeler for demolition of the bridge.

The bridge was closed more than two years ago after it sustained damage from floodwaters. Council halted progress on the demolition contract in January after citizens urged the city to explore rehabilitating the historic stone arch bridge.

Murphy Constructors was chosen as the preferred contractor in March, but negotiations on the final contract took several months.

Citizen opposition to demolition played a key role in the final decision.

A group of citizens attended every Council meeting at which the bridge was discussed, contending that it was a historic asset worth preserving and that rehabilitation was not only possible, but also far less expensive, than demolishing and rebuilding the bridge at an estimated cost of more than $600,000.

At a June 14 town hall meeting, 55 attendees unanimously expressed their preference for rehabilitation and, in an online survey that followed the meeting, about 80 percent of respondents favored rehabilitation.

“I was gratified that it passed unanimously,” resident John Graham said after the meeting. “Often in Manitou, when good things happen, it is because of the efforts of many people, and I think this is one of those cases. I hope this will help get our sense of stewardship and common sense back in the community’s bloodstream.”

Murphy Constructors founder Chuck Murphy said Tuesday he was eager to begin the project.

“I’m really pleased with the way it’s all worked out,” Murphy said. “I’m really sorry it’s taken so long, but it’s better to spend the time now” to iron out details.

As a result of the negotiations, the city agreed to pay for a geotechnical evaluation of the soil at the bridge. The evaluation and project management costs will add about $74,000 to the rehab project’s total price tag.

Public Services Director Shelley Cobau said the project is eligible for funding from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Manitou’s PPRTA capital budget includes almost $413,000 that could be used once the PPRTA citizens advisory committee and PPRTA board review the rehabilitation project.


Hiawatha Gardens

Also Tuesday, Council rejected an ordinance that would have included Hiawatha Gardens in the city’s historic district.

The property was excluded in 1997 when the district’s boundaries were revised. Attorney Brian Murphy petitioned the city in December to restore it to the district, and the Historic Preservation Commission recommended reinclusion in May.

Council has not decided on the best use of the building, which was a popular dance hall in the 1920s and most recently housed Tajine Alami restaurant.

Planning Director Wade Burkholder said inclusion would open up grant and partnership opportunities for renovating the building.

“The ball is already rolling about a use assessment and funding application for a grant due in October,” Burkholder said. “What happens with this ordinance determines whether we move forward or not.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilors heard opinions from citizens on both sides of the matter.

“We think there are good uses for that building,” said former Mayor Bill Koerner, noting that the city would gain only 42 parking spaces if the structure were demolished. “We have the opportunity to move additional city services over there. We’ve got to put it in the historic district to get to the meat of this issue.”

Wendy Goldstein said she favored keeping the building in the district “to keep this building viable for something that might be able to be used by everybody, including the people visiting and people that live in town.”

“Finding the historic aspect of Hiawatha Gardens is like striking gold for our community,” Nancy Fortuin said. “When you have history, you preserve that history to the best of your ability.”

Tim Beeson urged council to postpone including the property in the district.

“We need a plan for what we want to build on that property that isn’t limited by a prior commitment to preserve Hiawatha Gardens,” Beeson said. “Moving it into the historic district presumes an answer to that question without ever looking at a plan or exploring options.”

Joanne Desrochers said she views the property as “a hodge-podge of ugly buildings. In response to a petition by a citizen who was on the Historic Preservation Commission, it has taken on a whole new identity. Do we really want the burden of restoring or rehabilitating it at costs of (up to) $3.5 million? It would be a lot easier to start with an empty space.”

“We bought this property purely for parking,” Joel Grotzinger said. “That was the promise to residents of Manitou. If we try to save that building, we’re going to eliminate parking spaces that are extremely expensive and difficult to come by.”

Councilor Coreen Toll said she would consider reinclusion “later but not now. I want a little more freedom without the history people being mad at me.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Smith and Councilor Randy Hodges said they have received numerous comments from citizens about Hiawatha Gardens but little support for reinclusion.

“The preservationists give us their angle, wishes and desires, but people who approach me on the street don’t share those ideas and philosophies,” Hodges said.

“Nobody has approached me on the street or called or emailed in favor of including it in the historic district. I can’t in good faith represent residents of my ward by voting to include.”

On Toll’s motion to deny inclusion, Council voted 5-2, with Councilors Bob Todd and Becky Elder dissenting.