ALAMOSA — Taking a step back from their offer earlier this summer to donate the Rio Grande Motorway building to the Early Iron Club, the Alamosa Marketing District Board on Thursday discussed the need for a process to receive and review proposals for the building, which lies just east of the Alamosa Welcome Center and train depot on Sixth Street in Alamosa.
The board met with Alamosa County Commissioners Darius Allen, Michael Yohn and Helen Sigmond, who appoint the marketing board, as well as County Administrator Gigi Dennis and County Attorney Jason Kelly.
“We have to do it right, and we didn’t do it right, and we take responsibility for that,” said Marketing Board Vice President Cathy Simpson. “I feel like we have got to take responsibility how we handled it and move on.”
Marketing Board President Rob Oringdulph said when Early Iron made a proposal to the marketing board for how it could use the building the board thought the best thing to do would be allow the club to have the building, but in retrospect the board should have asked if there were other proposals out there before deciding to donate the building.
He said the board would seek proposals for the building, if the commissioners were comfortable with the board pursuing that idea.
Dennis said the board needs to be specific when it seeks proposals and let the public know what type of businesses or organizations would be acceptable in that space, what the board’s vision is, in addition to specifying “what you know about the building.”
Marketing Board Member Fred Bunch said the building’s use needed to fit in with the tourism campus already in place with the welcome center, chamber and train depot.
Dennis said the board would also need to specify a time line for when projects would need to be completed.
“I don’t want to see it go to someone and they sit on it and nothing happens,” he said. “We want something to happen with that building.”
Kelly said any contract could require action within a specified time frame or the building would revert back to the marketing district.
Marketing Board Member Matt Abbey said the board needs to develop a process for the disposition of a public asset like the Motorway building. He suggested a point system be developed to weigh proposals for the building, with ability to pay being weighted along with other benefits.
“We ought to come up with a set of metrics how we evaluate it,” he said. “Different groups are going to bring different skill sets.”
Commissioner Allen said when a newspaper article came out saying that the building was going to be given away, “we were hit upside the head with that, weren’t expecting that.”
Allen said Jeff Woodward had asked him if he would be willing to listen to an idea for the building, and Allen had suggested he make his presentation to the marketing board. Allen said what Woodward told him, as far as the concept, “was something that could probably work.” He said was still interested in looking at Early Iron’s proposal.
However, he said the county is ultimately responsible for what the marketing board does, as appointees of the county.
Simpson said she believed the commissioners would like Early Iron’s proposal, as the marketing board did, but the proposal just never made it that far.
Commissioner Yohn said the newspaper article was the first he had heard about the Early Iron proposal, and it was a shock to learn of it that way.
“As far as the property goes, it is a valuable piece of property, and it should be utilized,” he said. “It’s been sitting there.”
The only concern he had, he added, was that if the board was going to sell or donate the building, “it needs to be advertised properly.”
Commissioner Sigmond said she understood there might be asbestos in the building, so whoever bought it would need to be advised of that. She said the county would be responsible for addressing that.
Oringdulph said there is some asbestos in the building, but how much is unknown, and it has not been officially identified as having asbestos.
Kelly said even if the county included an indemnification clause in sale documents for the building, the federal government would still hold the county and marketing district responsible for addressing asbestos.
Sigmond said there was also a concern in the community about giving the building away, because it has some value.
“It’s worth something,” she said.
“I think it’s ill perceived,” said Jamie Greeman, executive director of the Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau. She said the building does have some value but not $400,000.
“Money was paid for it,” Abbey said.
“There’s value for the county, the taxpayers who actually purchased it,” Yohn said.
The board discussed that the last time the building was appraised was by Monte Mullins in late 2015 at which time it was valued at $290,000.
Kelly said the board needs to consider whether it wants the building to go to a nonprofit or for-profit organization. A for-profit business would get the building back on the tax rolls, he said.
“Given the mission is tourism, that’s something that ought to be taken into account as well,” Abbey said. “Is the project going to attract visitors to the Valley?”
“It has to be part of the equation,” Kelly said. “That’s the only way you can spend the money is to promote tourism.”
Dennis suggested that the committee reviewing proposals be broadened, specifically to include some young people. Kelly said the marketing board could create a sub committee for this purpose.
Alamosa business owner Ruthie Brown attended the marketing district’s board meeting Thursday, and Oringdulph asked her for her input.
She said, “I just think it needs to be transparent. Maybe as a taxpayer there is value in the building, and so whatever you do with it, that has to be justified one way or the other.”
She said the city needs to be involved in this process as well, especially since parking is an issue with this space so whatever goes in there will have to deal with that issue.