Berthoud seeking options for over $2 million in remaining COVID funding
As the Town of Berthoud continues to grow, some good news came from Town Administrator Chris Kirk in his bi-monthly sit down with the Surveyor last week. Kirk explained the town has “a little more than $2 million,” in the bank from federal funding that was distributed nationwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kirk said the town had been sitting on the funds, holding them “in the bank,” until rules regarding spending were finalized. “I’ve learned not to spend federal money until you exactly what the rules are because if you spend it wrong you can be heavily penalized,” Kirk said.
The rules have since been clarified and “expanded dramatically,” according to Kirk who said he and town staff will suggest to the Berthoud Board of Trustees in the next month or so to spend the funding on either expanding broadband access or investing in downtown enhancement programs, primarily construction activities.
On broadband, Kirk said the town discussed with the neighboring communities of Johnstown, Milliken and Mead the possibility of banding together to install physical infrastructure, in essence creating a new utility. While Berthoud residents responded most favorably of the four communities to their current options for broadband service, the town received a proposal from Allo Communications, which would create a competing broadband service, within a few years.
If the board opts to spend the $2 million-plus on the downtown project, Kirk said the funds were be spent, “entirely on physical infrastructure” and mentioned an idea that has been circulating that would create a “creative district” on 3rd Street and Massachusetts Ave area that would be a “much more walkable and much more bikeable,” area and could help bolster more commercial and residential options.
Also, in the same general area of town, Kirk said one of the projects the town has been working on for a while – the sale and redevelopment of the old Berthoud Town Hall – will be a priority for the board and an updated proposal for redevelopment of the site will be presented to the board at the beginning of June.
One subject that has been heavily discussed at the two most recent board meetings regards the development of a bike park and track development at the proposed Richardson Park, located in the area of Loveland Reservoir on the northwestern side of town. Board members and town staff have heard complaints from residents in the area regarding increases in traffic, noise, pollution, the potential for crime and other areas with what would likely be a draw for bicyclists from across the northern Front Range.
“The project has been underway in some shape or form for four years, it was part of the parks master plan, the end result ended up almost exactly what was in the parks master plan, there is some disagreement with the immediately adjacent residents about what the master plan showed or what the intent was,” Kirk said, adding that it is always a challenge for municipal government when a large project is proposed. “There are some people who like what you’re doing and there’s some people who don’t like what you’re doing. I think in this instance, at least from the feedback we’ve heard, it’s not the project itself we’re doing but there was some concern about the parking lot and access.”
Kirk, who said he does understand the concerns of residents who neighbor the park, continued, “The project has been under way for years, there have been a lot of public meetings about it, public comment, there’s been information about it in our newsletter and on our Facebook page. We learned that the easiest and most obvious way to reach out to people is to send them a letter directly … and in this instance, if we used our normal Planning Commission noticing radius it would be 1,000 feet, so 35 property owners.”
Kirk said the town has made some changes to the proposed development, moving the parking lot and restroom building further north and west, where it will still be accessed via Meadowlark Drive. The town will incur added expense as a result as the restroom, at its new location, will require a pumping station. “There’s added expense there, there’s added maintenance expense long-term, those small pumping stations can be a real maintenance problem but that’s life, if the board wants to do that, we will do that, if they want to stick with the original plan after they’ve had some time to think about it, we can do that too,” he said.
With summer in Colorado comes road construction season and Kirk said Berthoud will not be immune to numerous projects. The town received bids back for the first year of the five-year payment (roadways and sidewalks) and Kirk said they were better than expected and “in the next 30 to 45 days residents will see a lot of asphalt work going on around town.”
The Turion development proposal, located at the I-25/Highway 56 interchange and formerly known as Wilson Ranch, on which the prior board rejected amendments to the already-in-place metro district service plan, is something Kirk said he would like to have the board begin addressing in the very near future.
“It will definitely take more than one meeting, it’s something thing I would like to front load in terms of our policy initiatives just because of the amount of time and money Turion has spent in the town on this project,” Kirk explained. “So, the sooner we can get something back in front of the board for their consideration the better. We have drafted a policy, our legal team is going through it now, so it should be ready for early June, at least present as an option.”
Kirk also had high praise for newly seated board members Karl Ayers and Sean Murphy, saying, “It’s been great so far, Karl and Sean both have experience working with the town on committees and the Planning Commission in the past so it’s great they already have a little bit of a leg up and the learning curve is not so steep so it’s going to be good.” The board will hold its retreat, along with Kirk and other members of town leadership, at some point soon to discuss and develop long-range plans that gel with board priorities.
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