City hall

Competing values will drive the decision on where (and whether) to build a new Cortez city hall.

The building currently housing most of the city offices is crowded and convoluted. Unlike the City Service Center in the industrial park on Lebanon Road, the Main Street space isn’t particularly conducive to accomplishing city business. In addition, parking is inadequate. Parallel parking on Main Street and then opening the driver’s door are not activities for the faint of heart.

The downtown blocks of most older communities were built out many decades ago; turning them into modern spaces with up-to-date technology can be costly and difficult. Convenience is a nebulous commodity, and it’s not the same as accessibility. A location on the fringes of downtown will be convenient for some; others might prefer a building in another part of town that offered a parking lot and a drive-up window for utility payments.

But moving a city hall away from the center of its city is not a step to be taken lightly. Downtown is beginning to fill, but no one can argue that a significant portion of the city’s sales tax (excepting car dealers) is collected east of what once could be called the “central business district.” While retail business would be preferable to city and county offices, government services do add weight to what should be the city’s center of gravity.

The park complex north of Main Street along of Mildred Road is owned by the city, so it’s there for the taking. Centennial Park — the area north of Montezuma Avenue and west of Mildred — already includes three buildings: the Cortez Public Library, the Cortez Police Department, and the courts complex that also houses the Bridge Emergency Shelter. The library recently was expanded and remodeled; the CPD building is relatively new. It’s the third space, known as the Justice Building, that’s most available for a change of use as part of a plan to also relocate the courts now using the building. It’s not a bad location, although the Mildred/Empire intersection is a busy one.

Here are the considerations we believe are important:

•The Bridge must not be evicted unless and until other appropriate space is secured. Such a project will require a great deal of cooperation among governmental entities, nonprofits and private citizens. The good work accomplished at the shelter must not be unraveled.

•Neither should open space be sacrificed. That opinion is being voiced frequently right now. Green grass may be a luxury during this time of drought, but it’s important for the physical and mental health of the community. Building sites exist that won’t diminish the amenities that Cortez residents currently enjoy.

•The park complex must not be developed in a way that compromises the safety of users. Being able to see all the way across the park, and to be seen by drivers, including law-enforcement personnel, is a significant safeguard. Buildings and their associated landscaping introduce shadows, blind corners, places where individuals can be assaulted or die unnoticed.

•City employees must have workspaces and meeting rooms in which they can perform their duties effectively and represent the city well. Providing such a facility is not a waste of taxpayer dollars. There will always be naysayers who object to any expense; more reasonable people know that buildings don’t last forever and that in this age of technological advances, building needs change. With that in mind, the current M-CHS building or the Calkins Building are not high on the list of options.

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