Grand Lake juggles money as COVID-19 could hit town finances hard
Grand Lake designated a parcel of town-owned property for affordable housing on Monday in case a cushion is needed to weather the coronavirus’ economic downturn.
Coming into March, Grand Lake was cruising. Sales have been booming for years, and they were up 22.5% year to date in 2020. March’s and April’s numbers haven’t been reported, but nobody expects them to be anything but dismal.
Lucky for Grand Lake, April is the town’s slowest month, and the COVID-19 closures came during the town’s slowest season of the year. How long the effects on the economy might continue, though, is anyone’s guess.
The price of the property at 600 Mary Drive — approved by the previous board — came in at more than $340,000 when the town bought it in December. By designating the land as affordable housing, Grand Lake could move about $350,000 from the town’s affordable housing fund into its general fund.
With that money in the general fund — a little more than the 4% sales tax collections from one of Grand Lake’s best months of the year — the town would be in a much stronger position to fund operations if the coronavirus cuts too far into Grand Lake’s finances.
The idea was well received among most trustees. Sworn in as mayor earlier in the meeting, Steve Kudron expressed his support for the move, as did most of the trustees. Michael Arnston abstained from the vote.
One of the fears was that, once spent, it could be tricky finding enough cash in the general fund to repay the money taken from the affordable housing fund if it turns out the town wants to do something other than affordable housing with the property.
Encouraging the move, the town manager cautioned that the money would have to be repaid if the property isn’t used for affordable housing. However, the town is also a long way away from an affordable housing project at this time, he added. Plus, trustees seemed to think affordable housing was a pretty good idea for the piece of vacant property, which has a considerable number of water taps tied to it.
Listening in on the online meeting, outgoing Mayor Jim Peterson buzzed in and backed moving the money. He later told newly minted trustees he could see a project done there in a 50/50 split with a mix of retail and affordable housing.
On Monday, Grand Lake welcomed Ernie Bjorkman, Jonah Landy, Melissa Ratzmann and Arnston to the board, along with Grand Lake’s new mayor. Outgoing board members Tom Weydert, Judy Burke and Micky Rourke were all recognized for their service to the town, as was Peterson.
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Grand Lake trustees split 4-3 Monday as they decided to push forward with a controversial land deal.