ALAMOSA — In the first public mention of the latest proposal for the long-vacant Rio Grande Motorway building, the Alamosa city council last night commented on the Alamosa Local Marketing District board’s decision to give the building to the Early Iron Club.
City Manager Heather Brooks told the council that city staff were hearing some concerns from business owners about the building being given to Early Iron. Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley, the city’s liaison to the marketing board, said that board voted last month to give the building to Early Iron contingent on some expectations being met. She said the matter would be moving to the county commissioners, but the county attorney was already “starting to look at what it would look like.”
“I think the concern that is out in the community is, was it advertised either to be for sale or they were willing to donate it? Was it an open and transparent process?” Brooks said. These are the questions in the community, she said. She has been referring people to Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis, she added.
Brooks said she understood the county commissioners would still have to weigh in on this, which had not happened yet.
Brooks said the city does not play a role in who owns the building, but she wanted the council to be aware of the concerns she is hearing. She said the marketing district owns the building.
The building, which is next to the Colorado Welcome Center and train depot on Sixth Street, had previously been owned by the marketing district and SLV Development Resources Group, and the marketing district bought out DRG’s interest a couple of years ago, at that time with the idea of turning the building into a convention center.
Councilman Charles Griego asked about the investment in the building, which he estimated was about $400,000, and Brooks said that sounded pretty close.
“How can you take moneys from the marketing board and purchase something and then turn around and just give it away, $400,000 worth of money?” Griego asked. “I can’t comprehend taking that kind of money from bed tax money, buying the building and turn around and just give it to somebody and not even advertise it. Who else out there might want to bid for it?”
He added, “I hope the commissioners address it. That’s a lot of money.”
Hensley said she would be glad to share the council’s comments and concerns with the marketing board at their meeting next Thursday. She said the board had discussed how Early Iron would use the building, and there was discussion about parking.
Parking became an issue a couple of years ago with the convention center proposal.
Brooks said the city is trying to be very clear about its parking requirements for that building, especially in light of the fact the recent comprehensive plan process revealed a 200-parking space deficit in the downtown area. She said she could draft a letter that Councilor Hensley could take to the marketing board meeting reminding that group of the city’s parking and code requirements.
She said there are some areas where the city can be flexible and others it cannot. She said the city would be supportive of a project that puts the building to good use. “We just need to follow code. It’s just that simple.”
Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero said there are codes and regulations that must be met before a certificate of occupancy is granted.
Hensley said she understood there were many Early Iron Club members with skills that could be used to bring the building up to code. She said the group had a plan, and she did not believe they were trying to do anything behind the scenes.