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New grocery store owners concerned with delays

by Larry Patrick

WALSENBURG-  The owners of the new grocery store being built in Walsenburg, Hugh and Denise Brown, have expressed concerns about city delays in getting some of the necessary work done so that they can open in mid-December of this year.

    Hugh Brown emphasized that all of his dealings with the city of Walsenburg have been positive, but because of turnovers in city personnel and discussions held with various individuals, some work has not been completed by the city as promised and could cost the new owners lots of money.  Brown said he is paying 6% interest on a million dollars and needs to get a certificate of occupancy before he can open his doors.  Delays mean more outgo of money and no incoming revenue until the store opens.  Brown says some of the delays by the city go back to April of this year. 

    Brown has had to deal with three city administrators and two different city councils in the two years since he began working on the project.  The city of Walsenburg has agreed to assist with sidewalks, curbs, gutter and the retaining wall.  None of these are on the grocery store’s land.  However, before these can be completed, the Colorado Department of Transportation needs information and tests done to determine how turn lanes and other portions of the project will be handled.

    The Browns also made a request that the city waive the sales and use tax exemption money that would be coming to the city, to help offset higher expenses the project has seen.  This would amount to around $34,000.  The finance committee, made up of city council members, initially balked at the suggestion, saying they have received complaints about how much work and money the city has put into making this project go. 

    Brown countered that the $34,000 is not money the city is paying out but money that is coming to the city because the store is being built so there is no outlay of additional city funds.  Denise Brown also believes that some of the cost of the project on the city’s part may not be as much as was first thought.  The finance committee members said getting a better grasp of final costs to the city and waiting to find out the results of various propositions in the election Tuesday night would help them to better evaluate what they may or may not be able to do.  So far the City of Walsenburg has provided a combination of money and in-kind work of around $200,000.  The finance committee promised Brown that they would get answers on what the city has agreed to do, the reasons for the delays, and then follow through so that Brown could move forward with the opening of the grocery store.  Brown says he is building a grocery store that the community can be proud of.

    The new First Choice grocery store is expected to employ 25 to 30 people in Walsenburg.  Plans call for opening on or around Dec. 15, but that could be delayed if the certificate of occupancy isn’t available by that time.  City officials hope the competition with Safeway will result in lower prices and benefits for residents.

    Meanwhile questions arose as to the reopening of the CCA prison.  So far there are plenty of rumors circulating that the facility may reopen next spring, but there are no concrete facts to back that up.  Finance chairman Craig Lessar said he had heard that some former employees were contacted about returning next May but didn’t have any solid information that CCA had contracts in place to reopen.

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