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Trinidad Mayor Rico presents State of the City address to packed house

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Les Downs

On Thursday, February 6 Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico delivered the annual State of the City Address to a full room of community members and other elected officials in the Pioneer Room at Trinidad State Junior College. During his presentation, Mayor Rico touched on several items of importance as expressed by citizens of the city as well as acknowledged successes and challenges of the past and moving forward. Ultimately, he stated that the town is on a good path.

“With the public and private investments made in 2019 and continuing into 2020 we are well on our way to a brighter future,” said Rico. “Trinidad is being recognized across the state of Colorado as a leader in community revitalization. With everything that has been accomplished and what is coming, we cannot get complacent. Inspiration and perspiration will continue to move us forward.”

Much of the success of Trinidad has come from being visible to the right people as Council Member Anthony Mattie expressed following the Mayor’s address.

 “If we paid the Mayor a nickel for every mile he drove going to Denver to advocate on our behalf, we couldn’t afford him,” said Mattie. “The point being is that we’re putting ourselves out there. There is no luck. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. What we have been doing is preparing ourselves so that when those episodes of opportunity present themselves we recognize that.”

Another contributor to Trinidad’s success comes from their ability to build connections and work together with other entities to effect changes.

“One of the things we’ve grown to understand, in my opinion, is that we need to make partnerships,” said Mattie. “We realize we can’t solve all of our own problems individually and we need to be friends with each other, as we’re known to be. We are becoming teamwork personified in the things that we try and do with each other and with our collateral associates. We are recognizing that the problems we have; homelessness, opioids, unemployment, all that kind of stuff, are not my problem and not your problem but it belongs to all of us.”

In regards to the currently popular topic of drugs, crime, and homelessness, the Mayor explained the importance of cooperation between city, county, and citizens cannot be overlooked.

“Our streets, parks, and river walk must be adequately patrolled to give assurance to tourists and residents that they are safe,” said Rico. “This is not only the responsibility of our police department; citizens need to step up to the plate and report. Do not be afraid to report an incident. I would like to have our community known as Trinidad, where crime does not pay. I know we’re not going to eliminate crime across the board but I believe we can make some inroads to what is happening so people can feel comfortable living here or staying here for a few days.”

The Mayor also expressed the importance of supporting local businesses while also attracting other small businesses to the area.

“Something that was brought up several years ago was business gardening. What we mean by that is when you look at businesses that we have here now in Trinidad, we want to reach out and ask how we can help people to expand their business. Of course, we need to be searching for new business and small community sized businesses are what we can probably at this point in time work with because if we got a large, humongous business, we just don’t have the potential for housing.”

Rico said they were working in tandem with the county and state to arrive at solutions regarding Cougar Canyon as well as getting other developers to come in to build more affordable homes and condos. There is also still a need to improve ADA compliance and there are funds to do so, but getting bids has been difficult. A major problem the entire state is facing right now is a lack of contractors to do such work, Rico explained.

“We have money to put forward to fix curb cuts and some of the other things we need to do to come up to the ADA compliance but according to public works, the biggest problem is we are having difficulties getting bids from contractors,” said Rico. “There are just not enough contractors in our community to even bid these projects. This is not just an issue in Trinidad but across the state of Colorado.”

As the town continues to work towards cementing a solid foundation of economic success, despite challenges, Trinidad has worked hard to move toward catering to outdoor recreation as a burgeoning local industry.

“We are anticipating that we will become a destination for tourists who will stay two or three days,” said Rico. “In order to become a destination point, we need to have certain amenities for our tourists. First of all, one of the main things is we need to clean up our community, clean our streets, our alley ways and our buildings. By doing all this, it will result in more business and will show the pride we have in our community.”

A big driving force behind this outdoor industry is the creation of Colorado’s 42nd state park on Fishers Peak, which the Mayor stated would bring many people and dollars into this community.

“It was estimated that Fishers Peak would bring in 50,000 tourists a year with an impact of $3.8 million in revenue for the area,” said Rico, “and that is on the low end.”

Though there are many challenges the city is working to overcome, there is also a multitude of examples where Trinidad has achieved success, Fishers Peak being one of them. There are also many things that have been made possible through the careful management of cannabis tax funds.

“Sales tax and use revenue increased in 2019 from 2018, as of November by 8.4 percent,” said Rico. “We have adjusted our cannabis allocation from the 60 percent, 30 percent, and 10 percent, to 65, 30, and five. That means, as a breakdown, 65 percent of the revenue is held for projects, 30 percent is saved in a rainy day fund, and five percent goes to non-profits. The revenues collected for cannabis tax from January to December of 2019 is $3,716,000. Each year has continued to increase. Our cannabis reserve fund to date is at about $2.5 million.”

The Capital Improvement One-cent Tax has also been a benefit to the city through careful management and implementation of funds.

“Capital improvement project funds are budgeted this year at $9,118,271,” Rico said. “Our 2019 capital improvement projects were at $7,900,514.”

Moving ahead, the Mayor expressed they would be working to repair roads and continue improving utilities throughout the city. Notably, Santa Fe Trail is getting some needed attention.

“We will work on the water leak and road repairs on Santa Fe Trail from Main Street to Adams Street,” said Rico. “That’s on our agenda to take care of. We do want to fix more potholes in the roads.”

Following the Mayor’s presentation, he opened the floor to questions. One question that came up was the reasoning behind an unlimited moratorium on cannabis consumption businesses. Mayor Rico, Council members Anthony Mattie and Rusty Goodall, and City Attorney Les Downs all commented to the reasoning behind the moratorium.

A common thread among all answers was the importance to the city not to make the same mistake of jumping into new cannabis related industry too quickly without first fully understanding the legislation behind the state laws. Council Member Goodall explained they were working with the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) to get more information on consumption businesses before moving forward and possibly lifting the moratorium.

“We are trying to tread slowly and cautiously as we tried when we opened the city for the sale of medical and retail marijuana,” said Mattie. “We had a moratorium then, as well. We were waiting for the state for some direction and guidance as to how we might be able to do this and yet be in compliance with federal regulations. We put a moratorium in place so that we could be more deliberate and more conscious about what we’re doing so that we take advantage of the benefits of clubs that allow for that consumption and we don’t have to put up with all the negative things that could be to our detriment.”

Another topic brought forward was the need for additional parking near downtown to relieve congestion on Commercial and Main Street.

After questions had been asked, Councilmember Karen Griego expressed she was pleased with the attention Trinidad has received over the last few years and was happy to see others discovering Trinidad and calling it their home. She also said that it would take the village, including the lifelong and new residents, to continue that success.

“I can’t believe how resilient this small community is,” said Griego. “It’s a miracle that we’re still here. Unfortunately, the generation of my children doesn’t feel that Trinidad is attractive anymore. So I’m more than thrilled to see people who are sitting out there that are not natives of Trinidad because you have discovered this gem that we’ve known all of our lives and we need your help. There’s no better name that they could have called our town than Corazon de Trinidad because this is the heart of this community and it beats strong.”

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