Ignacio manager pushing workforce housing progress

Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:14 PM

"I think we're gaining momentum," Ignacio Town Manager Lee San Miguel told town trustees on March 11 about the on-going effort to address the shortage of workforce housing.

He reported he's been working closely with Regional Housing Alliance (RHA) director Karen Iverson and Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) representative Jennifer Lopez, Iverson's predecessor at RHA.

Last year the town got the access road and utilities to the property line of the 5.6 acres northwest of the Adult Education Center. The town wants to sell the land to a non-profit developer to build the project.

"We've had interest from a couple developers and maybe one more," San Miguel said. "It looks like it will be rentals and maybe some townhomes."

He cited a DOLA project for senior citizens in Greeley with a per unit cost of $290,000 - a price way above what he thinks will work for Ignacio.

"I told her we need housing for the service industry," he said. "I would like $90,000 to $110,000 homes," he said, which might mean factory-built homes that are brought to the site in sections and assembled. They can be better than site-built homes, he said.

San Miguel and his predecessor Mike Lee have called workforce housing a primary economic development requirement for the town.

The next step is a market study. San Miguel said the town will be able to use some of the $80,000 remaining from selling 54.4 acres (referred to as Rock Creek II) to the Southern Ute Growth Fund in 2011 to develop for market rate housing.

The study will be $15,000 to $20,000 for a very in-depth study, he said. It will include workers and employers, with questions such as do you like the sort of housing proposed, and would you be willing to pay for it? It will examine how transient the workforce is, and whether lack of affordable housing is a factor in that.

The market study is part of promoting the project to a developer.

Also on March 11, San Miguel reported on problems and options for the town's trash recycling service. The town's unmanned recycling trailer is plagued with contaminated loads.

Town employees take the trailer to the Durango Recycling Center. "We're getting a lot of mixed signals of what we can take," San Miguel said. "We can't take glass, and we're getting a lot of that. And no corrugated cardboard. ... We have a lot of contamination," including food containers that still have food in them. It stinks and isn't pleasant for the town employees, he said.

"We plastered the trailer with signs. It doesn't seem to get across. It's becoming more difficult," San Miguel said. If loads are contaminated above a certain percent, the recycling center rejects them and the load has to go to the dump.

"We don't know if a curbside system would help," he continued. The town's trash collection company would offer curbside recycling for an additional $3 per month to customers, but it has to be all customers, he said. "We'd love to be doing recycling. It seems to be the right thing to do. ... It would be much cleaner for our guys to do individual homes."

Trustee Alison deKay commented, "My cost to take it to Durango is more than $3."

Trustee Tom Atencio speculated the town won't get all customers to sign on. "I don't recycle," he said and suggested having a dumpster part-time with someone to monitor what people put in it.

San Miguel responded, "Manning the trailer, that's another person we don't have. ... We can't dedicate a person."

Atencio suggested locking it except when it is monitored. San Miguel and an audience member said trash will just end up on the ground.

Town Clerk Georgann Valdez noted that in a survey last year, "There were more people against paying more" for curbside recycling.

Treasurer Lisa Rea said, "We don't have anything in the budget for recycling costs."

There was no board directive about recycling, although deKay suggested another survey with more information about the cost to customers and what they could put in a curbside bin.

In other action, trustees approved a proclamation honoring attorney Dirk Nelson for 29-plus years of providing legal services to the town. He was supposed to start work as Durango's city attorney this week, leaving Ignacio, Bayfield, and other local entities advertising for a new attorney.

San Miguel reported the town got only one applicant from its ad. Mayor Stella Cox directed him to run the ad again with a new application deadline.