MONTE VISTA — Local business owner Raina Bowsher alleged the City of Mone Vista did not follow procedure related to the pending sale of the Gulzow Building.
Bowsher gave a detailed presentation during the Nov. 4 regular council meeting on the City’s shortcomings recently and in the past related to the Gulzow Building, 710 1st Ave., Monte Vista.
Bowsher and her husband, Jim, are long-time business owners. They have operated Southern Colorado Computer Services for 30 years in downtown Monte Vista. They have inquired about the Guzlow building and others in the past.
“The reason I am upset over the sale of the building is a legal issue, we did not get an opportunity to make an offer on the building,” Bowsher said.
Bowsher began by saying, “It has come to my attention that there are some folks who wonder why I am so upset over the pending sale of the Gulzow Building. Let me address the personal reason first.”
She claimed the City was obligated to issue a “request for proposal,” commonly known as an RFP, so people could bid on the building. Bowsher said this never happened.
In October, the City of Monte Vista placed a required “Public Hearing Notice” in the Monte Vista Journal announcing a public hearing in November on the Gulzow Building’s sale. There was no mention of RFP in the notice.
Bowsher added that the process of the leasing and sale of the Gulzow Building, over the last 3 years and 8 months had been legally wrong and said that she could and would prove it through documentation from the city charter, municipal code, and the city’s regulations and rules manual.
Bowsher said she spent hours researching and requesting all the related documents for the presentation.
Bowsher said in late February or early March of 2018, she asked former City Manager Forrest Neuerburg what the plans were for the Guzlow Building.
“Whether it would be for sale or not, as we were interested in possibly relocating our business to that location,” Bowsher said.
Bowsher said another couple had shown interest in purchasing the building.
“All of our inquiries about the building were ignored,” she said.
Bowsher said that in March of 2018, Ron Douglas was hired as an Economic Development Specialist to bring business to Monte Vista.
Bowsher said that she heard in May that Douglas received a lease on both the Gulzow and old Monte Vista Journal buildings for an absurdly low price of $500 per year.
The reason for allowing Douglas to lease the Gulzow Building was stated in resolution 06-2018, Bowsher said, and that it was a direct violation of two City documents.
“Leasing the building to Mr. Douglas in the manner in which it was done, was in direct violation of two city documents, municipal code 2-8-50, ‘Sale of City Property,’ it talks about any sale of real estate occurs only after public hearing, in accordance with the requirement of City charter,” she said.
She explained the city’s bidding and purchase policy requires property that is worth more than $2,500, shall be sold through the formal bid process, to the highest responsible bidder, after due notice inviting bids, and any sale can only occur after a public hearing.
Bowsher said there was a conflict of interest and fairness in bidding, citing section 2-1220. Bowsher claimed that since Douglas was hired as a contractor for the City, and the lease was given to him, the City violated the public bidding policy and violated the policy of conflict of interest.
Bowsher also pointed out that the original lease stated that Douglas did not have a right to offer to purchase the property, during the term of the lease. However, the lease addendum that was made a year later stated there was an option to purchase.
Bowsher said that according to an attorney she had spoken with the original lease and the addendum should be invalid due to the conflict of interest.
Bowsher also cited a previous City Council meeting when the Gulzow Building and old Monte Vista Journal buildings were discussed extensively.
Bowsher showed what she said was proof that the former city manager knew there were other inquiries about purchasing the building. She contends he stated that there were two inquiries at this meeting, but the inquiries were ignored.
Bowsher said that at this City Council meeting, Councilor Kathy Lorenz said an RFP should be issued at the end of the lease for the Guzlow Building. And Douglas replied that if this happened that he would need reimbursement for the receipts that he had for the building if the building were to go back to the City.
Councilor Kathleen Ellithorpe disagreed with Douglas on the recoupment of expenses. Bowsher said she found proof in the lease addendum that Councilor Ellithorpe was correct. In an area on the addendum it stated, “If the tenant does not purchase the property at the termination of this lease, all improvements shall become the property of the City of Monte Vista.”
The conclusion of this meeting included Councilor Kathleen Ellithorpe asking if there were other offers to purchase the Gulzow Building. Former City Manager Neuerburg stated at the same meeting that there were inquiries from other people about purchasing the building, and an RFP should be put out on the building.
The addendums on the two buildings passed even though the City Council had information that the one for the Gulzow Building should not have been passed, according to Bowsher, as there were other interested parties in purchasing the building.
Bowsher said that what happened has made her upset and that it does not make the City Council look dependable or trustworthy.
“I am sorry, but when public hearings continue not to be given proper notice, according to your charter regulations, it does not add to your credibility,” Bowsher said. “As I stated earlier, my appearance in front of you over the last three years has not been about greed, it has been about getting an equal opportunity to make our lives better if we had been given the chance to be the highest bidder in a competitive bid. We never got that opportunity, nor did anyone else who may have wanted to purchase the building.”
Bowsher said that she had no desire to attend the upcoming public hearing for the sale of the Gulzow Building, and she told the City Council that they were not elected to their positions to be spoon-fed information but were elected to lead.
She said that the Council had merely signed off on everything that was put in front of them regarding the Gulzow Building without asking any serious questions or doing any research. She said that there might be more breaches of the City’s policies.
“As a result, you have allowed a legal liability, to be created,” Bowsher said. “I have spoken with an attorney to confirm that.”
Bowsher ended her presentation with “you owe this community better, and frankly you owe yourselves better.”
Monte Vista Mayor Dale Becker thanked Bowsher for her research and moved on to the remainder of the agenda, which included the first reading of the City’s 2022 budget. The first reading was unanimously passed.
The Council also unanimously approved the first reading of Ordinance 912, an intergovernmental agreement with the Colorado Attorney General to implement the Colorado Opioid Settlement. Colorado stands to receive over $400 million over time from opioid settlements if the state gets total buy-in on the plan.
The Council’s action signals the state and Rio Grande County that it agrees to the state’s disbursement plan and puts it in a growing line to receive a portion of the disbursement, most likely in the summer of 2022.
Interim City Manager George Dingfelder said there will be an employee appreciation luncheon on Nov. 16.
A hazard pay appropriation of funds for City staff that worked during the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by Dingfelder and approved by the Council.
The next City Council meeting will be held on Nov. 18.