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Cortez council discusses long-range plans for city

Board sets goals for business, water, internet and more
The Cortez City Countil meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 123 Roger Smith Ave.

During a busy workshop on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council discussed goals for the next two years of governing.

City Manager Shane Hale gave a report on a special meeting the council held on June 3 to set a vision for Cortez’s immediate future. He then asked the board members for specific action plans that could help them meet the goals they set for this and the next fiscal year. Those goals fell mainly into three categories: “Thriving Economy,” “Sound Infrastructure,” “Livable Community” and “Financial Stability.”

Hale listed a few high-priority plans the council hopes to act on within the next three months, mostly in the third category. For example, he wants to have a tentative design by November for a potential park to be built on the site of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School building. Members of the city legal staff will also spend July working on a ballot question that would renew the Recreation Center sales tax after it expires in 2021.

But Hale acknowledged the council members need more information before they can implement most of the action plans they’ve set for themselves. Among the city’s biggest economic goals are supporting old businesses and attracting new ones. The board members spent much of the workshop trying to come up with specific ways to achieve those things.

Several council members suggested working with the Chamber of Commerce to recognize a “business of the week” or a similar title. Mayor Pro Tem Ty Keel said the city is already “very pro-business,” and has provided tax incentives for businesses numerous times in the past. But council member Jill Carlson said the city still needs to work on treating all businesses equally, regardless of how long they’ve been in town.

“All people love to be recognized,” Council member Bob Archibeque said.

One of the most complicated goals the council set for itself was completing Cortez’s broadband infrastructure. The Cortez Fiber Project, an attempt to provide affordable internet to the entire town, started several years ago, but the city never completed Phase 2, which was designed to provide broadband to most businesses. General services manager Rick Smith estimated the town has spent about $3 million over the past several years on the project. Hale said he hopes to conduct a feasibility study this year to determine a viable business model for city broadband.

Although the city has attempted to work with the Montezuma County government on a countywide internet plan, Mayor Karen Sheek said she believes it’s time for Cortez to move forward with its own infrastructure.

“Maybe we need to pull the trigger on this and get this done,” Sheek said. “I think that, regardless of how this whole thing pans out, we need to find out what it’s going to cost us.”

Even if the city does move forward immediately, the fiber project probably wouldn’t be complete for several more years. Right now the advance plan calls for a complete fiber layout by 2019.

Other long-term action plans the council agreed on included establishing a Public Arts Committee to replace the existing Mural Committee, building medians and pedestrian walkways on Main Street and creating a business incubator with the help of Region 9, Montezuma Community Economic Development Association and other organizations. The current advance plan calls for all those projects to begin within the next six months. But Hale said the plan will continue to evolve as the council talks with more department heads and gathers more data.

“This is going to be a living document,” he said.

During the meeting later in the evening, the council passed several construction- and infrastructure-related resolutions. They approved a site plan for a new salt shed next to the city Service Center in Progress Circle, a preliminary plat of a subdivision on Cedar Street and a $594,319 bid for waterline improvements. They also awarded a three-year contract to Venture Technologies to provide a better firewall system for the city’s network, at a cost of $82,218.37 per year.

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