(Post adapted from notes taken by Joseph Fox and LaRay Petersen.)
Guest Speakers: Curtis Gardner, at-large city councilor. Ruben Medina, Ward 3 city councilor.
Curtis Gardner Speaks
Mr. Gardner focused on addressing safety and security concerns, both for citizens and businesses. Businesses can apply for grants to increase security: lights, cameras, and removing cover such as shrubs and trees. Aurora will be spending 3 million on grants, 500k of which is guaranteed to the Colfax Corridor (Yosemite to Peoria). The program is set to launch May 16th.
Aurora is following Denver’s lead and starting a gun buyback program: specifically guns for gift cards. The program will be hosted at Platt Park on May 21st and two other locations will be released in the near future. 375 weapons were “bought back” at Mile High Stadium.
After the firing of Vanessa Wilson, there will be a 8-10 month period until a new permanent police chief is hired. Mr. Gardner predicts a hiring in the first quarter of 2023. There is also a shortage of police staff, down 124 officers from full staff. Officer retention and recruitment is also down. In response, the city has approved an $8,000 bonus to hire trained officers from other departments. Training new officers will take a lot of time to fill the gaps. Despite a full class graduating within the past 3 months, it takes an additional 20+ weeks of on-the-job training to be allowed to patrol on their own.
Citizen Q&A was primarily led by 2 gentlemen: one with a written list of concerns ranging from aging electric infrastructure to stolen cars to needing more streetlights, and a second whose questions centered around the structure of policing.
Mr. Gardner noted that the quickest way to get a proper response is by emailing CityCouncil@Auroragov.org or by contacting Access Aurora through their phone app. The city is negotiating with Xcel to purchase their streetlights in order to better maintain them. Denver’s program of using parked vans to record and write speeding tickets is under consideration in Aurora as well. (Partially as a side effect of red-light cameras being voted out by citizens in a previous election.)
City Council is also trying to figure out how to catch up with alley and street maintenance after diverting funds post-2008 to keep public safety running. Code enforcement is having trouble finding new recruits due to a tight labor market. While city police are still attempting to keep training a diverse population, it was not clear whether there are specific quotas for diversity hires or if Aurora is meeting them. Finally, Aurora’s mobile response team program was touted as being quite successful in its infancy, and Mr. Gardner is seeking to expand the program.
An additional concern was brought up regarding the state of Colfax in the Arts District. Flower boxes in the median are being removed and sidewalks are being extended, and the construction was deemed as unsightly by some residents. A city commission was noted to lobby business owners towards finding new tenants if existing ones are not helping (Example: liquor stores selling mini shooters.)
Aurora and Denver are working together to extend Bus Rapid Transit along Colfax from Broadway to Fitzsimons Medical Campus. Aurora approved 2.5 million for the design phase and 21 million over the period of construction (2022-2028), though federal funds are likely to halve the total cost the city is paying. Denver’s plan is for BRT to run down the middle of Colfax, while Aurora plans for BRT to be on one side of the road.
A resident inquired about water infrastructure. Aurora has projected ownership of water rights until 2070, can outbid other municipalities on access to future water rights, and has 100% water allocation rights.
Another resident had concerns over the change in garbage collection leaving the alleys. In short, alley garbage collection requires manual labor. Collecting from the street allows for robot arms to do the heavy lifting. Various agencies such as Waste Management are relieved that various hazards (stray dogs, homeless, power lines) are no longer an issue for their crews.
Ruben Medina Speaks
Mr. Medina is the project manager for Stapleton Foundation’s North Aurora chapter. This is a coalition of faith groups, immigrant communities, and local city members. They collaborate with East Denver on a variety of issues. They are knocking on doors and engaging with youth to see what they need help with & what they’re seeing in the area.
If this sparks any interest with residents, Mr. Medina may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nadine Caldwell Speaks
Two new construction projects are going under the permitting phase:
Elmira St and 25th Avenue (Elmira North): New three-story mixed-use development is in planning. The first two stories will be commercial, and the third story will be residential. The project requires a 2nd review given various concerns from many city agencies.
Akron St and 14th Avenue (Grand Avenue): Townhome development with 53 units planned. 3-4 bedroom units without gas appliances. Possible cost of $500k per unit. The project requires a 4th review submission due to concerns about an unattractive color scheme and unclear plans for utility easements.
The next meeting will be the NANO potluck picnic on August 11th at Moorhead Recreation Center from 6-7:45 pm.