Johnstown council members reconsider, approve full $6 million for Interstate 25 project
March 27, 2017
The Loveland City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday and was initially scheduled to hear an updated proposal from the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT engineer Heather Paddock said that meeting will no longer be necessary.
JOHNSTOWN — Nearly a week's worth of negative feedback from political leaders, developers and constituents was enough to push the Johnstown Town Council to reverse its decision on the Colo. 402 interchange and commit the full $6 million to the project in partnership with Loveland, Larimer County and Weld County.
A standing-room-only crowd attended Monday night's special meeting, called for the purpose of reconsidering the council's March 21 decision to contribute $1.2 million.
Every person who spoke, including two Loveland City Council members, was in favor of a $6 million commitment.
The initial plan called for $6 million contributions from Johnstown and Loveland, and $1 million each from Larimer and Weld counties.
Residents cited safety, economic development and what many called a pretty sweet deal.
For it's $6 million contribution, Johnstown will get more than $9 million in improvements on the east side of Interstate 25 alone.
Considering Johnstown has annexed three of the four corners of the I-25 and Colo. 402 interchange, many said the town had more to gain than anyone.
"I feel like we made a mistake last week," council member Jesse Molinar Jr. said. "I think we ought to make this right."
Johnstown Mayor Scott James went further, taking to his personal blog over the weekend to call his decision "gutless." James was one of four council members who voted to pitch in $1.2 million instead of $6 million.
Joining James in the 4-3 vote were council members Troy Mellon, Chad Young and Mayor Pro Tem Gary Lebsack.
Lebsack was absent for personal reasons, but Mellon, Young and James all changed their votes Monday to make the $6 million unanimous.
Although he still had concerns and insisted on including language regarding the creation of a development fee to recoup some costs over time from developers at the intersection, Mellon was on board.
"Reconsidering isn't a sign of weakness," Mellon said.
How did Mellon come to that conclusion?
"My No. 1 constituent told me I was being a fool," Mellon said.
"Same last name?" James asked.
"Yes," Mellon said, drawing laughter as he acknowledged the constituent he was talking about was his wife.
A half-dozen residents spoke in favor of the improvements, and the $6 million contribution. Many said it was a dangerous interchange that needed to be fixed. Mellon, it turns out, can relate.
"(My wife) asked, 'Why are you being so pig-headed about this when your own son had an accident at that intersection?'" Mellon said, adding his wife told him others were probably having crashes, too.
Although he said he wanted to remain emotionally neutral, he came around to the logic. And he has memories of his own at the intersection.
"I used to cross that (interchange) when I was 5 years old to visit my grandmother's house," Mellon said. "It hasn't been improved since."
Without the vote to approve $6 million, James said it likely wouldn't have been improved until 2075.
Johnstown's payments are due at the end of 2020, and the council will work out how much to pay and when.
With a $25 million to $30 million rec center coming in this year, it's possible town officials will try to backload payments.
Either way, constituents and others are happy.
"I'm very happy," said Loveland City Council member Dave Clark, who owns a business in Johnstown. "I'm looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity to work together in the future."
— Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.