Photo by Dyana Furmansky

Basalt Town Council reviewed the first quarterly financial report of the Basalt 2030 project at its regular meeting May 10, focusing incrementally on the budget for the $12.8 million Midland Avenue Streetscape project.

From the get-go, costs for revamping Midland Avenue, one of the three priorities approved by Basalt voters in a bond issue last year, will be closely monitored as the project proceeds, said Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. “You’re going to get really familiar with this budget over the next four years,” he told the seven council members.

“Obviously, for a project of this size you have to keep your thumb on the costs,” said Basalt Finance Director Christy Chicoine. Breaking it down for quarterly review allows what Mayor Bill Kane called “opportunities to spend wisely.”

Chicoine’s presentation noted differences between the initial 2021 estimate for the project, and the current estimate. She projected that $834,000 in additional funds will be needed to complete the project, although no final design has been chosen. Mahoney said that the shortfall would be spread out over several years, and that additional grants and funds from the town’s General Fund are expected to cover it.

At their work session held prior to the regular meeting, councilors reviewed three different conceptual designs for the Midland streetscape presented by Connect One, the Basalt landscape firm that was awarded the contract in March. Stutsman Gerbaz Earthmoving and Construction will provide general contracting services.

In other business, the council unanimously approved on second reading an ordinance for acquiring a recreational use easement on the hill area belonging to the 27-unit Basalt Vista Affordable Housing Homeowners Association (HOA). The property has already been open to the public for hiking, sledding and other year-round recreations.

Gail Schwartz, president of Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley that built Basalt Vista, told councilors that since low and mid-income families own the residences, their HOA would not be in a financial position to cover any liability costs in the event of an accident by a recreationist. Nor could the HOA find an insurer to do so, Schwartz said. Granting a recreational easement to the town of Basalt is “the elegant solution” to the problem, she continued, because it would enable the town to cover the easement in its own comprehensive liability insurance policy.

Also on the agenda was the council’s convening as the Local Liquor Authority to grant a new liquor license to Jaffa Kitchen, the Middle Eastern restaurant in Willits, and renew the liquor license for Brick Pony Pub in Basalt. Both items were unanimously approved.

Additionally, the council voted to again approve a one-year agreement allowing the Brick Pony to use four street parking spots for 32 tables, an outdoor arrangement necessitated by the pandemic. The dining area is separated from street traffic with concrete barriers, or what the Public Works Department calls “river pigs.”

While the town paid for the river pigs’ installation during the pandemic, Brick Pony owner Greg Jurgensen agreed to pay for their placement for this summer’s outdoor dining.

Dieter Schindler, who joined the council with Angela Anderson in April, said that concrete barriers did not seem like an attractive element for Main Street in light of the downtown’s beautification efforts. Manager Mahoney said the “pigs” would not be permitted when the redesign work got underway, and that more attractive long-term outdoor seating for Brick Pony would be considered at that time.

The continuing rollback of COVID restrictions means that 2,000 bicyclists will roll into Basalt from Glenwood Springs on June 13, Day Two of this year’s Ride the Rockies route. At 31 miles, it will be a short ride that day. On Day Three, however, participants will head over Independence Pass for Salida, a 118-mile ride.

Another popular event returning this summer is the Basalt Half Marathon and Relay on June 4. The council voted in its Consent Agenda to approve Special Event Activity permits for each. The Basalt Half Marathon has been run since 2010, and is a fundraiser for the Basalt High School cross country team. In language that seemed a hangover from a weaker economy, planning staff noted in its recommendation that the 12-year-old race “brings tourism and vitality to Basalt.”