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Cortez City Council Approves Downtown Medians; Several Audience Members Express Distaste

Austin Cope

A routine vote to award a bid for a project in downtown Cortez turned contentious at Tuesday night’s city-council meeting. Several citizens peppered the council, which included five newly sworn-in members chosen in April’s election, with questions and criticisms about the project and bidding. City staff had recommended approval of a bid of $1.07 million by Western Gravel Contractors of Montrose to install improvements along a four-block section of Main Street. These include a median, ADA-compliant ramps, and a flashing-beacon pedestrian crossing.

But city resident Sue Ellen Gilbert accused the city of moving forward without community involvement, saying the project had never been mentioned in the newspapers. However, Mayor Karen Sheek and Councilor Jill Carlson said there had been several public meetings about the project, which is part of a citywide plan approved in 2015, and there were at least 10 articles in the Cortez Journal.

Pepper Noyes, wife of new Councilor Gary Noyes, questioned whether downtown Cortez is really dangerous and asked how a median would improve safety. Public-works Director Phil Johnson said medians are a proven traffic-slowing device and that this median would be only 6 feet wide.

The council ultimately accepted Montrose Gravel’s bid, with veteran board member Orly Lucero, who had previously supported the project, voting no along with new members Noyes and Sue Betts. A public meeting to answer questions about the project is set for this Thursday, April 26th, at 6 p.m. in Cortez City Hall.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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