Following are highlights from the March 16 and other recent meetings of the Boulder City Council.  

City Hall expansion

Two City Council decisions dealt with the Boulder Development Fund’s Statement of Work No. 8 pertaining to the expansion of City Hall and upgrades to Veterans Park and downtown lighting. 

Councilors approved a scaled-down plan for the project following the recent denial of hoped-for state funding; it will now focus on adding basement space to City Hall and constructing new public restrooms that will be attached to the building, as well as adding ADA-compliant ramps. 

To pay for the $152,000 project council members also approved reallocating funds from a handful of other Boulder Development Funds statements of work: $19,800 from streetscape improvements, $16,000 from the Facade Improvement Program, $7,500 from MDC North Campus Survey and Development Support, and $3,750 from an I-15 Interchange Project survey. The project also includes $104,000 in funds already allocated to the City Hall upgrades.       

Facade Improvement Program     

The City Council unanimously approved a handful of items pertaining to the Boulder Development Fund’s Facade Improvement Program, which provides up to $7,500 for improving downtown Boulder storefronts.

Significantly, with the blessing of the Montana Department of Commerce, the program will no longer require a dollar-for-dollar match. The waived requirement retroactively applies to previously approved funding allotted to the Boulder-Basin Masonic Lodge No. 41.

Council members also agreed that it would not be a conflict of interest for two Boulder Development Fund board members — Cory Kirsch of Hardware Hanks and Tim Norbeck of Jefferson High School — and Boulder Mayor Rusty Giulio to apply for funding on behalf of their associated businesses or the school. The Boulder Planning Board is in the position of reviewing grant applications and sharing its findings and recommendations to the City Council, which decides whether to accept them. Kirsch, Norbeck and Giulio are not on the Planning Board; as Mayor, Giulio can only vote on City Council matters to break a tie and would be expected to recuse himself from any vote involving his businesses. Only Kirsch and Norbeck have expressed plans to apply for funding.  

Councilors also approved granting $7,500 in Facade Improvement Program funds to the Boulder-Basin Senior Center for roof repairs. 

Main Street Medians       

Monday night’s meeting contained the second public hearing held to discuss whether to alter the medians along Main Street in downtown Boulder, a project arising from complaints about safety and other concerns Mayor Rusty Giulio has said the city has fielded. The project’s timing would align with a Montana Department of Transportation project, scheduled for 2024, to make ADA-compliant improvements to downtown’s concrete sidewalks.

The first public hearing, held during the February City Council meeting, garnered little public input; no one weighed in during Monday night’s hearing. According to the Mayor, what public comments have been made support reducing the height of the medians; he said a decision would be made at April’s City Council meeting.               

Novel coronavirus

Not discussed at the meeting but made available for pickup was a letter from Mayor Rusty Giulio stating that “the City of Boulder is taking the outbreak of the Coronavirus and Influenza very seriously” and suggesting or recommending various measures for city residents — including not visiting City Hall if  “displaying signs of illness.”

The letter also notes that City Hall will remain open to the public, but encourages “the use of alternatives to in-person meetings when possible.”

“City Administration will continuously monitor updates from health organizations and follow their recommendations in this unique time, and we will continue to adapt as circumstances change.”  

Community Decay, Beautification and Upkeep Ordinance

The City Council on March 11 held its second public hearing on a beautification ordinance being developed to replace Boulder’s outdated junk vehicle ordinance, which has been criticized for being vague. The first public hearing was held Feb. 5.

The title states the expanded scope of the proposed ordinance. The phrase “junk vehicle” isn’t included; “community decay,” “beautification” and “upkeep” are. In addition to junk vehicles the body of the document covers buildings, weeds, debris, garbage and enforcement including fines.

Both public hearings generated considerable public involvement. Most residents who commented were in support of the ordinance; some of those opposed expressed concerns about it imposing undue hardship upon people who might be physically or financially incapable of meeting its requirements; others worried about it turning neighbors against neighbors.

Council member Michael “Bear” Taylor, who spearheaded the rewriting of the ordinance, and Mayor Giulio repeatedly assured people that the city’s intent was not to punish people and expressed hope that community members would come together to help one another.

“We’re a small enough town that we’re all neighbors,” Taylor said at the March 11 hearing.

With the completion of the public hearings, the City Council will decide at its April meetings what public comments and suggestions to incorporate into the working draft of the ordinance. A first reading of the revised draft could occur as soon as the May City Council meeting.

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