On Monday, November 25 Trinidad City Councilmembers met for a work session to start a conversation on several topics of importance to the city. Taking most of the time during the meeting was a discussion with board members of the Trinidaddio Bluesfest, a local non-profit, who recently decided to expand the single Bluesfest event in August into two additional events; one in June and another in July, featuring different varieties of music.

“As always, there are costs involved,” said Interim City Manager Mike Valentine, “and the initial request was $30,000 from tourism and $60,000 if possible from the City of Trinidad. There is an issue with that, based on our ordinances around marijuana money and how we’re allowed to use it.”

Councilmember Karen Griego stressed that they had set a cap for non-profits at $5,000 and that continuing to make exceptions was not possible.

“We had given SCRT $30,000 last year because we gave Bluesfest $30,000 and we cannot do that again,” said Griego. “It’s a $5,000 cap. It was $25,000 and then we got hit that one year with 12 requests and last year that went into effect and we made an exception [for SCRT and Bluesfest] and we can’t keep doing that. We have to be really careful about how we’re spending our money.”

Trinidaddio Board Member Jerry Campbell said that it should be considered because of the return on investment the event provides for the city.

“In August last year, there was a $116,000 bump in revenue from the previous month,” said Campbell. “If we have the events in June and July as well, I would expect to see similar figures.”

Campbell added that they are also asking for the city to purchase a stage to help cut down costs for the event, saving around $10,000 for the events.

“Something else I’ve talked with Mike and Audra about is the city purchasing a stage,” said Campbell. “It’s a $175,000 stage for sale used for $41,000 dollars. Something like that would be a great investment for the city and could be used not just for Bluesfest but also for Santa Fe Trail Days.”

Mayor Phil Rico stated he, along with the rest of the board, did not feel comfortable having to continually supplement Trinidaddio, now asking for more than they have in the past. Rico also recommended they charge for tickets to the events.

“I believe that these events should be ticketed,” said Mayor Rico. “People should pay to go to these types of events and we need to look at what kind of funds these events could generate with ticket sales. We’re concerned with $60,000 for these concerts.”

Campbell explained making the events free could bring in a bit more people but charging for tickets could help eliminate the need for city assistance.

“If we were to charge for tickets we probably wouldn’t need any help from the city,” said Campbell. “But why wouldn’t you want them to be free?”

Rico ended the discussion stating they would look into what was possible for them to do and would meet again in the near future to discuss options.

Problematic plastics

Also during the meeting, Valentine brought up the issue of plastic grocery bags being blown about at the landfill and down by the river. This was an issue that all councilmembers, other than Anthony Mattie who was absent, agreed was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“It’s an issue,” said Valentine, “but how do we do this I anticipate will take some community meetings and talking to the major stores that use these bags to develop something. This just opens the discussion.”

Councilmember Carlos Lopez stated that focus could be centered on reuse and reduction of plastic being used by charging a fee as other towns across Colorado and the rest of the US are beginning to do in small and large communities.

“We need to be reusing,” said Lopez. “The recycling aspect is not as good, unfortunately, but the idea is to reduce, reuse and recycle. If we can get two out of three, that’s a good start. If this had a fee structure that goes back into itself in terms of education and issuing reusable bags, it’s going to eliminate a lot of waste. Steam Boat Springs just completely did away with plastic bags at their four large retailers.”

The Steam Boat Springs ordinance regarding plastic bags excluded smaller mom and pop businesses and focused solely on the larger retailers like Wal-Mart, who already has plastic bag charge programs in place that could be easy to implement. Several members of council said the first step should be meeting with Wal-Mart and Safeway to see how they felt about the issue.

Mayor Rico saw value in looking at what other communities were doing to help address the issues of plastic waste in the local ecology while also noting it takes looking at multiple communities to help find what best works for Trinidad.

“One of the things that I look at is what other communities are doing something where we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Rico. “That’s something that I often hate to do. Sometimes we can pull something from here, something from here, and make it work for us.”

While several city councilmembers agreed with the benefit of to not trying to reinvent the wheel, there were also those who felt that Trinidad required it’s own city specific solution.

“Sitting on council, I get frustrated when I hear people compare our little town to Breckenridge or Manitou Springs,” said Councilmember Joe Bonato. “We’re Trinidad. We’re old enough to make our own decisions. Those other places are money, money, money. We have to come up with a solution and I don’t think we have to follow Breckenridge’s example or Steam Boat Springs. I think we have to follow what the people of the City of Trinidad want.”

Mayor Rico concluded that the ultimate goal of looking at a possible charge for plastic bags had to do with getting people to look more closely at how they disposed of plastic bags and encourage them to use reusable bags for the sake of the local environment.

“There’s some ways that I believe we could do this to where it makes sense,” said Rico. “It boils down to we need to make our local environment look better.”

Valentine stated that the staff would start moving towards looking for a solution to bring back in front of council.

“This shows that we need to look more into this,” said Valentine, “so staff will take the next step and start contacting the big stores and small stores and get some public input also.”

Downtown parking

The agenda for the work session also included an item for discussing the issue of parking along Main Street and Commercial. Councilmember Lopez brought up the possibility of charging parking fees via kiosks in municipal parking lots and potential meters throughout downtown.

“If we’re running out of space, that’s a good problem to have,” said Lopez. “If we want growth we have to be ready for it, and welcoming of it, otherwise we’re going to be scared of it. [Meters and kiosks] are a way to pay for it in it’s own capacity.”

Several councilmembers including Miles and Benato stated that enforcing the timed parking restrictions already in place could solve many of the issues with the lack of parking.

“I think the problem is that enforcement has to be made,” said Benato. “An officer or somebody is going to have to be hired to do this.”

“I’m more about enforcement that revenue generation,” Miles said. “Metering is not going to be popular.”

Councilmember Rusty Goodall then commented that not all the decisions council makes are necessarily required to be popular, but for the betterment of the city as a whole looking into the future as far as possible to avoid issues down the line.

“When the peak opens up and Space to Create and everything else, the amount of traffic in this town we have now is going to be nothing compared to what’s coming,” said Goodall. “We’ve got to get ahead of this now and we [as a city] don’t have a lot of time to figure it out. We have a year to get something in place to start dealing with this and our traffic situation is going to get much worse. With this, no matter what we decide is going to be a popular decision, but we’re going to have to address this in one form or another. We’ve got to have more parking lots or put in some paid parking. I’m for metering and more enforcement both.”

With each of the councilmembers giving their thoughts on the subject, Valentine said that he saw a common voice for more regulation and a need for an updated inventory of existing parking.

“I’m hearing enforcement as a main thing,” said Valentine. “I can have staff do an analysis and inventory of current municipal parking available.”

With this as well as the other topics of discussion, the idea was to open the discussion to work towards finding possible solutions moving forward. Many expressed that they saw a need to tackle these issues sooner than later as population and tourism grows in the next few years.

City discusses river’s plastic bag problem, downtown parking

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