For Anne Lee Foster, it’s all a matter of health.
“We are just asking for some really simple, basic protections for our homes, our schools, and our playgrounds,” says Foster, who is a volunteer and activist for Colorado Rising.
That group that has succeeded in getting on this fall’s ballot a question that would more than quadruple the distance between all new oil and gas well drilling and the nearest homes, schools, and hospitals.
Proposition 112, continues Foster, will protect neighborhoods through a minimum 2,500-foot zone from a “dangerous, explosive, and toxic industrial activity that is trying to come into our community.”
The current mandated distance is 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools, a difference between existing law and proposed law that Scott Prestidge says could prove devastating to the oil and gas industry in Colorado.
“This measure is basically a ban on our industry,” says Prestidge, a spokesman for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
In a press release, Dan Haley, the president and chief executive officer of the association, warns that the measure puts at risk “private property rights, more than 100,000 good-paying jobs, more than $1 billion in taxes for schools, parks and libraries, and our nation’s energy security.”
Opponents additionally predict that if passed, the measure would remove up to 85 percent of state land for new drilling activity.
The proposition has also met with strong opposition from the state’s building industry, leaders of which have argued that it would both hurt oilfield construction, as well as Colorado’s overall economy.
Such industry groups as the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, the Colorado Contractors Association, and the Associated General Contractors of Colorado have all gone on record against the measure.
What is being generally referred to as an “anti-fracking” move is mostly framed by two trend lines: the incidence of oil and gas well explosions and fires, and an unprecedented post-Great Recession boom in oil and gas development.
In undoubtedly the most well-known explosion, a homeowner and his brother-in-law were killed in the town of Firestone in April of 2017 after an odorless gas, from a retired underground pipeline connected to a well, seeped into the house.
The subsequent explosion of that pipeline led to the death of both men.
In that tragedy’s aftermath, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered all gas and oil companies in the state to inspect and test every pipeline within 1,000 feet of any occupied building.
But the second factor animating Proposition 112 advocates is the unprecedented growth in Colorado of hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as fracking, which has contributed to the production of around 450,000 barrels a day of crude, and a more than 70 percent increase this year in new drilling applications.
The multi-billion dollar business has also been producing record tax revenues for Colorado, forecast to top the $200 million mark this year.
Despite those numbers, and the obvious influence of the state’s oil and gas industry in the state, Colorado Rising organizers scored a signal victory this summer when they secured in excess of 172,000 petition signatures to get the drilling setback question put on this November’s ballot.
“The momentum is with us,” says Foster, who adds that Proposition 112 supporters have been canvassing in all parts of the state, including in counties where fracking is prevalent.
But opponents of the measure are also making themselves heard, in particular with campaign contributions that so far, according to the site Ballotpedia, are nearing the $18 million mark, compared to Colorado Rising’s $718,000.
Prestidge says that despite that very significant fund-raising advantage, the industry is not taking anything for granted.
“We’re working very hard on this,” he says of Proposition 112. “It’s going to take every bit of effort that we have, but we feel that once Coloradoans understand what this measure does, we’ll have a good chance to defeat it.”
The campaign for both sides is reaching into every corner of the state and galvanizing voters in a way usually only seen in presidential elections.
Disparate groups like the Colorado Sierra Club, the Denver Catholic Network, the Telluride Institute, and the Broomfield Moms Active Community have all come out in favor of the measure.
Those in the opposition camp includes Jared Polis, the Democrat nominee for governor, and Walker Stapleton, the Republican nominee, as well as current Governor Hickenlooper, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the Colorado Association of Mineral and Royalty Owners.
While Foster acknowledges that the opposition is formidable, she is also predicting a historic victory in November.
“People are very concerned about the explosions, the toxic benzene exposure and the studies showing negative birth outcomes and respiratory disorders and cancers that are a part of living next to oil and gas activity,” she says.
“What they’re doing now is standing up and responding to a crisis that has come to their doorsteps,” Foster adds.
By Garry Boulard
police department in durango, colorado, wants to leave more than 50 year-old building for new headquarters
Trying to move out of the same location they have been in since John F. Kennedy was president, the Durango Police Department is hoping to secure enough funds to build a modern and considerably larger headquarters elsewhere.
Currently located at 990 E. 2nd Avenue in a 15,000 square-foot, mostly one-story structure, the department has announced plans for the construction of a 45,000 square foot structure that would provide additional office, training area, and juvenile detention space.
In August members of the Durango City Council voted to put on this November’s ballot a question calling for a 5.4 percent mills property tax, as well as a half cent increase in the local sales tax, that would generate the $19 million needed to build the new station.
In a column for the Durango Herald, Mayor Sweetie Marbury endorsed the ballot proposals, noting that “closets have become offices” in the current station.
“It’s a maze of walls and doors that is inefficient and ineffective,” the Mayor added.
City officials say a site for the new station has not yet been selected and will be determined later, depending upon the results of the election.
By Garry Boulard
The last three months, mark yet another quarter of record-high earnings for U.S businesses classified as being in the middle market, according to an index compiled by RSM International, a multinational network of accounting and auditing firms headquartered in London.
Middle market businesses are businesses earning anywhere from $10 million to $1 billion a year.
The index is compiled and published every quarter in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The most recent findings, notes Neil Bradley, executive vice-president of the Chamber, show “optimism and continued growth” in middle market companies.
And those companies, Bradley added in a statement, represent “more than one-third of U.S. jobs.”
With index responses above 100 representing optimism, and anything below that number classified as pessimism, the most recent total RSM Middle Market Index score works out to 134.4.
That number is in line with the 134.5 and 136.7 scored respectively in the first two quarters of this year, and is only the latest indication of a trend that has been overwhelmingly on the up side since the spring of 2015.
Such strong index showings, notes Joe Brusuelas, chief economist with RSM, “imply a sustained period of strong economic growth heading into the final three months of 2018 and next year.”
Some 62 percent of middle market executives participating in the index survey say their company’s revenues increased in the third quarter, a 5 percent jump over the previous quarter.
More important, 67 percent said they expect revenues to increase in the next six months.
Despite these good numbers, respondents are worried about the Trump Administration’s tariff policies and trying to figure out the best way to respond.
“Some 30 percent of businesses indicate they increased their inventory levels, while 40 percent state they expect to do so,” writes Brusuelas, adding: “Some middle market businesses could be caught off ground if the trade spats intensify or result in increasing production costs.”
As with the construction industry in general, the most recent RSM Index findings indicate that middle market companies are struggling to “attract qualified talent in this booming economy.”
Brusuelas adds that because of the labor shortage some middle market companies are “testing new strategies to make use of their existing employee base.”
Those companies are additionally increasing their investments in technology, and “taking advantage of automation.”
By Garry Boulard
long-planned visitors center celebrating the legacy of historic route 66 may get bond funding in november
A modern Route 66 facility that will almost certainly be advertised in neon may receive essential design and construction funding depending upon the results of a Bernalillo County bond question on the November ballot.
Bernalillo and Albuquerque officials, as well as members of the Southwest Alliance of Neighbors, have for several years been promoting the idea of a Route 66 Visitors Center that would pay tribute not just to the famous 2,200-mile network of roads, but also the fact that Albuquerque was a prominent stop along the way.
The planned site, at the corner of Central Avenue and 136th Street and at the top of the Nine Mile Hill, was purchased by Albuquerque in 2013.
Now, supporters are hoping to secure additional funding for what is expected to be an $8.2 million project.
So far, up to $4.5 million in state, city, and county funds have been set aside to make the center a reality.
If approved by voters, the project would receive another $750,000 as part of a larger $16.7 million county bond.
Efforts to pay tribute to what was in the 1920s known as the “Main Street of America” have seen similar Route 66 visitors centers opened in Springfield, Missouri; along with Route 66 museums in Pontiac, Illinois and Kingman, Arizona.
Connecting Chicago with the West Coast, Route 66 began to decline in use and popularity in the late 1950s with the advent of the Interstate Highway System.
Even so, cities and towns along the route have through the years continued to promote the idea that Route 66 should be memorialized and explored for its tourist potential.
According to reports, the Route 66 Visitors Center in Albuquerque could also see the construction of a drive-in theater, restaurant, and taproom.
By Garry Boulard
A significant step forward has been logged in a long-planned effort to build a facility on the campus of the Navajo Technical University that will advance the school’s energy education program.
The federal Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has announced that it is awarding a $1 million grant for the construction of what is being called the Metrology and Materials Center.
“Through this project, Navajo Technical University will help the region diversify and rebound by providing opportunities for local workers,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement announcing the grant.
New Mexico Representative Ben Ray Lujan, also in a statement, noted that “It’s important that the Navajo people have high-tech tools within their communities to train the next generation of workers.”
The project has additionally received a $1.5 million matching fund coming out of the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development.
As envisioned, the center will include course offerings in advanced manufacturing, robotics, and 3D metal printing.
It is thought that the center will additionally attract upwards of $15 million in eventual private investment.
Located in Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo Technical University was founded in 1979 and is the largest tribal college in the country.
The school offers a wide variety of degree programs in construction, automotive technology, and environmental science, among other areas.
By Garry Boulard
federal transit administration awards more than $366 million for bus maintenance and facilities projects nationally
The Road Runner Transit system in Las Cruces is getting exactly $11 million to build a new transit and operations center for its bus fleet.
The money for the project is coming from the Federal Transit Administration and is just one out of more than 107 individual public transit projects slated to receive federal grants.
Those grants, said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement, are specifically designed to “help rebuild and modernize bus systems across the country for greater safety.”
In total, the FTA, through its expansive Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program, has allotted $366 million in grants for projects in all fifty states.
The City of Phoenix is receiving $6.3 million to upgrade its fleet, while Fort Collins, Colorado will get $1.5 million to replace and expand its bus stops.
The FTA grants will also be put to use in Denver and Boulder where the big Regional Transportation District is getting $3.5 million for roof replacement projects at several maintenance facilities.
FTA officials say the agency received pitches this year for 340 individual bus and bus facility projects across the country, totaling more than $2 billion.
By Garry Boulard
With nearly half of its more than one hundred elementary, middle, and high schools built in the 1960s or earlier, the Jefferson County Public Schools system is facing a challenge.
It needs to both update its many facilities while outright building three new elementary schools.
The problem is that the last time the Golden, Colorado-based district asked voters to approve a bond for facility construction and upgrading in 2016, it was decisively defeated.
In fact, district voters have not approved such a measure since 2004 when they passed a $323 million bond for facility improvements.
Despite that track record, the board of the Jefferson County school system has agreed to put on this November’s ballot a $567 million bond designed to not only pay for the three new elementary schools, but also fund upgrade efforts at every school in the district.
If passed, that bond will also pay for facility additions at nine elementary schools and three high schools.
The new construction projects will see the $19.9 million replacement of the Marshdale Elementary School; the replacement of the Kendrick Lakes Elementary School at $22.2 million; and the $22.1 million replacement of the Prospect Valley Elementary School.
With more than 85,000 students enrolled in the Jefferson County school system, it now makes up the second largest district in the state, just behind the Denver Public Schools system with around 90,000 students.
By Garry Boulard
After several years of discussion and an ongoing search for a site, plans have now been announced for the construction of the new Mexican-American Cultural Center in downtown El Paso.
The structure will be built into and as a part of the Main Library of the El Paso Public Library system at 501 N. Oregon and is expected to cost just over $15 million to complete.
Just under $6 million in funding for the project is coming from the city’s Quality of Life Bonds, which were approved by El Paso voters six years ago.
The additional $15 million has been approved by the El Paso City Council, and will come out of the city’s general fund.
Although supporters of the new center had originally wanted to see it housed inside a refurbished Abraham Chavez Theater, city officials saw the library location as more cost-effective.
According to a document prepared by city staff, the new site will have twice the square footage as the Chavez facility, and has the additional benefit of having “no code issues, no need to acquire land, and with major utilities already budgeted.”
The new facility will carve out 40,000 square feet from the library’s 100,000 square feet, adapting for a new use a section of the building that was added onto the main structure just over a decade ago.
Opponents of the plan criticized the idea from two directions: some said the loss of the 40,000 square feet would take away needed space from the library, while others said the lack of having a free-standing building for the Mexican-American Cultural Center would serve to dilute its mission.
Ultimately, the council voted 7 to 1 to approve the project. Actual renovation and construction could begin next year, with an anticipated 2022 opening.
By Garry Boulard
The announced implementation of a 10 percent tariff on more than $200 billion in Chinese imports is expected to significantly impact the U.S. construction industry.
A wide range of construction materials and supplies from China, including everything from vinyl floor coverings to trimmed granite and various depths of plywood sheets, will cost U.S. builders more to purchase as a result of the Trump Administration’s tariff action.
According to a study just released by the National Association of Home Builders, over “10 percent of the value of these goods is made up of items commonly used in residential construction.”
The NAHB concludes that the tariff is the equivalent of a multi-billion dollar tax increase on the industry.
In a statement, Randy Noel, NAHB chairman, said the tariffs will increase costs for “millions of American consumers and businesses that rely on these products, including home builders.”
Noel added that already existing increased tariffs on Canadian lumber are additionally “increasing the cost of building materials and exacerbating the housing affordability crisis.”
President Trump earlier said that he was imposing the tariffs in order to put a stop to what he called the “unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China.”
It is not certain what will happen next in the tariff stand-off between the two countries. China, in response, has imposed tariffs on some $60 billion in U.S. goods and has also cancelled further trade talks with the U.S.
By Garry Boulard
Roughly $3.5 million will target an extensive upgrading and renovation of the eight-story Alvarado Square in downtown Albuquerque.
Located at 415 Silver Avenue SW, the structure was built in 1980 and served as the long-time offices of the Public Service Company of New Mexico.
When PNM, in 2015, moved its offices to another part of the metro area, that left the big 280,000 square-foot structure empty, a conspicuous vacancy on a busy downtown street.
But looking for a place to consolidate a host of country offices, members of the Bernalillo County Commission approved a proposal last year to purchase the $2.7 million property.
It was initially estimated that it would cost around $36 million to bring the structure up to date, but a survey of the building’s needs, including an update of its plumbing systems, not to mention the renovation of office space throughout Alvarado Square, shortly brought that figure up to $48 million.
Now commission members have voted to include the Alvarado Square upgrading project in a larger $38.5 million general obligation bond that will go before county voters this coming November.
That bond will fund Bernalillo’s six-year capital improvement plan, a plan that also calls for the building of public housing and installation of transportation infrastructure.
The $3.5 million allotted for the Alvarado Square work will also see the construction of a separate stand-alone building next to the main structure that will house the commission’s chambers.
Nearly $39 million in funding for the project will come from the county’s gross receipts tax revenue.
Upon completion of the Alvarado Square upgrading and renovation, the building will house the offices of the country clerk, treasurer, and assessor, among other departments.
By Garry Boulard