City council changes course on vacant buildings

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Funding allocation for mental health also discussed

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  • Gunnison city limits
    Gunnison city limits
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Sam Liebl

City of Gunnison leaders are considering different avenues to address vacant dwellings.

Gunnison City Council discussed enforcement measures at their Tuesday meeting. The measures will be looked at for abandoned and dilapidated properties after a monetary incentive program failed to gain traction.

In November of 2019, City Council allocated $35,000 toward an effort to improve vacant properties deemed uninhabitable. The city identified 30 properties that met the criteria, 25 of which were mobile homes.

Possible incentives were a payment of up to $400 per structure for the property owner to help cover costs of inspections, and a $1,000 rebate for the successful, voluntary renovation or demolition of the structures.

One property owner took advantage of the program, which Community Development Director Anton Sinkewich said was an “exemplary example of what we had hoped would happen.”

Letters were sent to the property owners, along with followup contact attempts from city staff. The program was advertised throughout 2020 to the general public as well.

“The intent was to create a positive, collaborative relationship with property owners in hopes that enforcement could be avoided,” Sinkewich said to the council. “Now, we’ll have to target the funds (for the program) toward enforcement on properties.”

Sinkewich said enforcement will look different for each structure, depending on the needs.

Enforcement measures will first be determined for three of the properties Sinkewich described. The properties’ needs will be assessed, and presented to council at a later meeting.

“Let’s take it one step at a time, take what is uninhabitable and make it livable council member Jim Miles said.

City Council members also discussed use of the Marijuana Mitigation Fund in 2021.

Gunnison voters in November 2014 approved the tax on recreational marijuana sales within the city. Tax amounts go toward a variety of community needs, such as substance abuse prevention, law enforcement, scholarships and more.

While no official action was taken for the 2021 allocation of those funds, council members said they may put them toward mental health services.

Gunnison Police Chief Keith Robinson joined the discussion to address needs related to drug and alcohol use and mental health issues, particularly with regards to treatment opportunities.

Robinson said the police department has been working with Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) and the Center for Mental Health (CMH) for years to establish a program to help individuals in crisis get proper treatment, instead of being taken to the Gunnison Detention Center.

“The hope of crisis response is that people could go to their home, or wherever they are, to help them get the resources they need,” Robinson said.

Both GVH and CMH have been looking to add crisis response ing and available applicants have caused those positions to remain unfilled.

Robinson said grant funding can be made available for similar positions and programs, which the Gunnison Police Department has applied for, but the funding source is not sustainable.

Council members discussed having GVH or CMH present at a later meeting to address their needs and goals and to see if they can reach a partnership with the city.

“I’m glad we’re looking at the matter in a creative way,” Council Member Diego Plata said.

“This is really prioritizing this money in the best way we could,” said Council Member Mallory Logan.

(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at roberta@gunnisontinzes.com.)