Back around the turn of the millennium, Manitou Springs shop owners were encouraging Marcy Morrison to run for mayor.
"I said, 'If I'm elected, we won't be standing still,'" Morrison recalls, "'because if we stand still the town will die.'"
True to her word, Morrison set in motion a voter-approved tax which, together with Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and federal highway monies, has funded a list of downtown improvements over the past half-decade. Now Mayor Marc Snyder will watch the final stage be completed in 2012 with the remainder of those funds. Several other important capital projects are also on the way with funding from different sources. Here's a rundown of what's coming:
Downtown revitalization: The far west end of Manitou Avenue will finally get a face lift with improvements to the streetscape, medians and the entrance to Soda Springs Park. A roundabout planned for Park and Manitou avenues (next to Tubby's Turnaround) has been ditched in favor of a regular intersection. (Snyder explains, and Morrison agrees, the roundabout was too close to one at Manitou and Ruxton avenues, and would have meant traffic-flow problems.)
The city does plan to add a roundabout at the west edge of Manitou Avenue at Serpentine Drive, the connector to eastbound U.S. 24. But it will need additional money for that change. Staff are exploring options.
Bridge upgrades: The historic bridges on Park and Cañon avenues will be upgraded with $275,000 in federal money and $292,000 from the state historic fund. The city doesn't want to shut down traffic for summer tourists, so Manitou planning director Dan Folke says he's hopeful the work can be done before Memorial Day. If not, some may have to wait until later in 2012.
Route for kids: Using a $117,000 federal grant, Manitou plans to build a walking route from the north side to the middle school. A new path and footbridge over Fountain Creek will be built near El Paso Boulevard. The bridge will be fabricated by the nonprofit Concrete Couch, in a project involving local children. The grant will also fund a new crosswalk at El Monte Place and Manitou Avenue, and a sidewalk up El Monte.
More on the way? Both Snyder and Mayor Pro Tem Aimee Cox note that a small tax to acquire land for The Fields park will expire Dec. 31, 2012.
Snyder wants to consider asking voters to extend the tax, applying it to police pay and parking improvements. Cox supports the extension but wants it applied to police pay and police station improvements. The tax is estimated to bring in $119,976 in 2012, but it long ago paid for the park. In fact, the tax has collected about $520,000 more than was needed — but the city isn't sure what it can do from a legal standpoint.
In a town where the 2012 general fund is a mere $5 million, the topic is sure to resurface.