Gypsum approves largest investment in capital projects in town history
Road improvements, a new wastewater treatment plant and two new parks top 2023 budget priorities
The town of Gypsum recently approved a 2023 budget that more than doubles last year’s total general fund expenditures at $22.8 million and features the largest investment in capital projects in the town’s history.
The town is starting the year with an unusually high general fund balance of $19.3 million due to several capital projects being pushed back a year — including a $3 million roundabout on U.S. Highway 6 — and revenues that came in at over $3 million more than the town’s projected income, totaling $15 million. Sales tax revenue exceeded the original budget by $1.5 million and the real estate transfer tax exceeded the budget by $1.2 million.
“As we have money available to do things we’re trying to be proactive about getting things done,” said Jim Hancock, the town engineer. “Highway 6 is a good example. We’ve owned that for a while now but we really haven’t done anything major to it. It’s time.”
Gypsum administered a bilingual community survey of 467 residents in September to help guide this year’s budget priorities, which revealed a high rate of traffic concerns. Forty-five percent of respondents listed “public infrastructure improvement like roadway expansion, bike paths and new sidewalks” as their top budget item and 36% of respondents listed speeding as an area in which they were “very concerned.”
To address these concerns, Gypsum is allocating $6.2 million toward roadway and roundabout projects in 2023. The town is currently working on plans for two roundabout projects to be constructed this year: one at the westbound Interstate 70 interchange budgeted for $2.2 million and the other at the intersection of Highway 6 and Schoolside Street budgeted for $3 million. Plans for a roundabout to replace the traffic signal at Highway 6 and Valley Road will also be finalized in 2023.
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In addition to the roundabouts, the town will spend $2 million designing improvements to the stretch of Highway 6 between Eagle and Gypsum, including additional lanes, parking, landscaping, utilities and safety enhancements along the corridor, with an emphasis on the section from I-70 to Schoolside. There is also $275,000 allocated for Cooley Mesa Road bike path repairs and a bus stop pedestrian crossing.
Gypsum’s town manager Jeremy Rietmann noted that these traffic planning measures and road improvements are setting the stage for the development of a downtown core, something that residents of Gypsum have consistently prioritized in past community surveys. Respondents this year said that the lack of a town center contributes to a lack of identity for Gypsum and forces them to leave and spend their money in neighboring towns rather than in their own community.
The 2017 Comprehensive Master Plan for Gypsum includes a proposal for a future downtown, an intention that Rietmann assured is still front of mind for the council, and improved roadways will facilitate increased traffic volume when that plan comes to fruition.
“These things take time. The town does not just self-develop and make a downtown happen,” Rietmann said. “It requires timing, favorable market conditions, cooperation, and negotiation between private property owners, private investors, developers, and the town. We’re confident that many of these elements are aligning and we will ultimately be successful.”
The largest capital project getting underway this year is a $65-million-dollar sewer and wastewater plant expansion and upgrade financed by the town’s sewer fund. A 2018 study determined that Gypsum would need to update its wastewater plant within the next 10-15 years in order to meet changing capacity and regulation needs. Once completed, it will be able to meet the town’s projected user capacity for the next 20 years.
The town has allocated $21.6 million toward the project in 2023, the majority of which is financed by a $20 million loan. In order to pay back the loan, the town is considering an ordinance to raise wastewater fees by 40% each of the next three years and 25% in the fourth year. The second reading of the ordinance will go before the council for approval at the next Town Council meeting.
Aside from infrastructure, the town is spending over $4 million on parks this year, an increase of over $2.5 million from last year. $1.5 million is dedicated to capital improvements, including the construction of a new skate park and a new dog park on Buckhorn Valley Boulevard. Both projects will be up for bidding this year and final dollar amounts have not been determined.
“We feel like the town is definitely growing and we’re trying to be responsive, anticipate and be ahead of the curve on some things,” Hancock said.
Other significant areas of expenditure are Gypsum Daze and other special events with a combined budget of around $550,000 and law enforcement services with a budget of $1.5 million.