Justin Miller elected new chairman of La Junta Urban Renewal Authority

The La Junta Urban Renewal Authority made some decisions on Thursday, contingent on completion of the background work on two large projects, the Plaza Block building and the new purchase of the downtown building at 207 Colorado, the former Pipeline and Montgomery Ward building recently purchased by the City of La Junta. At the former meeting of Urban Renewal, the emphasis was on helping with downtown roof repair. A roof is badly needed on the Plaza Building before more damage is done by a hard winter. The Montgomery Ward building is in good repair, but needs an elevator to get the upstairs apartments in usable condition. There is a time limit on how long it takes a city to get a rehabilitated building into actual service.

Urban Renewal Member Karen Kelley was in favor of delaying a decision about funding either project until a separate budget meeting could be held. The other members felt the projects need to move forward, with part of the financing coming from Urban Renewal money. In the budget drawn up by Economic Development and Urban Renewal Director Cynthia Nieb, $200,000 is set aside for the new purchase Montgomery Ward building to get it operational as quickly as possible. She also set aside $170,000 for the Plaza Block Building, which the Urban Renewal Group increased to up to $201,000. The east wall of the Plaza has to be shored up before the roof can be put on and joists which have rotted through on the roof from exposure to water have to be replaced. The motion reads: “To approve the budget pending justification and documentation on how money will be spent on the Plaza and Montgomery Ward Buildings.” Karen Kelley cast the sole dissenting vote.

Nieb pointed out the mission of the Urban Renewal Authority is to use the money paid into the tax incentive to improve the area and be for the benefit of the people. She promised to look for more money to apply to both projects. As the former head of History Colorado, she knows where to look. Plaza Project Director and Urban Renewal Member Rebecca Goodwin says moving now will help to prevent further damage from the interior being exposed to weather, and might move the whole project forward about a year.

In other business, the group needs to find a replacement for Joe Ayala, who recently resigned from the board. They expressed the hope they can find another person interested in the position who is similar to Ayala in demographic; that is, a person with a young family, a young person, a person who represents some diversification. “After all, we’re making these changes for them - it’s how the town will look in 20 years we’re concerned with here,” said Goodwin. Justin Miller, a  newcomer to the board and relatively young, was unanimously elected as the new chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority Board.