Ridgway Town Briefs
Public Art, Fire Sirens and Dump Stations: All In a Night’s Work
by Peter Shelton
Nov 19, 2010 | 1467 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RIDGWAY – Weighty matters of governance took a grateful back seat to art and a possible new firehouse at this month’s regular Ridgway Town Council meeting.

Two members of the public, Ed Folga and Caitlin Switzer, approached council on two separate public sculpture projects, each one designed to add to the business climate – as well as the aesthetics – of the downtown core.

Folga, who with his wife owns Willow Creek Floral and Willow Creek Crossing, proposed on behalf of the local 3/50 Project committee an ice sculpture event in conjunction with the Ouray Ice Festival weekend, Jan. 7-9, 2011.

Folga said the idea would be to sculpt ice on the Town Park tennis courts. “It could be a yearly event,” Folga said, “a Winter Ice Festival. We’re trying to get people into town” instead of merely driving through, to Telluride or Ouray. “We typically do absolutely nothing during that time,” he said.

Mayor Pat Willits mused aloud that “there are probably a few things to think about” regarding use of town property.

“That’s why we like the tennis courts,” Folga said. “Security inside the fences. Lights. They sculpt from about 10 at night to 6 a.m., while it’s cold.”

Where does the ice come from? “They purchase it in 300-pound blocks. They are specially made for ice sculptures.”

Folga said his business group would also like to see the park’s ice rink re-established, “for broom-ball tournaments, that kind of thing.”

“I think we’re for it,” Willits said of the ice sculptures. “And we thank you. It’s a slow time that could use a boost. I suggest you work with staff on the details and get back to us.”

Next up was Caitlin Switzer representing RAX, or Ridgway Art eXperience. Switzer is on the steering committee for PAX, Public Art eXperience in Montrose, which has placed sculpture throughout downtown Montrose to rousing acclaim.

“In Grand Junction,” which also has a successful public art history, Switzer said, “downtown Main Street has surpassed the [Colorado National] Monument as their No. 1 attraction.

“Studies show,” she continued, “that sculpture is one of the things that gets people to stop and get out of their cars.” Her initial proposal would place four bronze sculptures, on loan from the artists, on Lena Street between Sherman Street and the Post Office. “We have two pieces by Michael McCullough,” whose studio is in the old firehouse building on Lena. She handed out color prints of McCullough’s “Red Fox” and “Wheeler.” “And we have two by Mary Zimmerman of Paonia, who owns a foundry there.” Those pieces are also bronzes, a St. Bernard with cask, and a child in cowboy boots called “Griffin.”

The council had a question about liability. What if kids climb on a sculpture and it tips over on them? “With our insurance carrier,” said Town Clerk Pam Kraft, “we can’t have blanket coverage for all the art in town. We have to have a contract with each artist.” But it can be done, she said.

“Do we all think this is a cool thing?” asked Mayor Willits, looking around. Heads nodded. Coates said she’d work with Switzer on the details.


Randy Gardner of the Ridgway Volunteer Fire Department told Town Council last week that they have outgrown their building next to the Community Center and, as part of a five-year plan, would like to trade their current location for another town-owned lot farther north on Railroad Street.

Gardner said the fire district would much rather stay close to the center of town than be “across the highway” in Trail Town as had been suggested. “The talk we get is everybody [firefighters] likes the idea of staying near the center of town. It’s easy response time for the firefighters who live in town. And, since protecting the schools is a big priority, we would rather not have to come through the signal light” at the junction of Highways 62 and 550.

Mayor Pro Tem John Clark asked why a move was necessary.

“We need a longer space,” said Gardner. “As it is now the fire trucks are stacked inside, which can affect response time. We’d like to have all the bays facing Railroad Street. Also, we’re thinking the way the community is growing, we’re going to have to add a ladder truck. And we’d like to accommodate EMS ambulances as well, like they do in the big cities. We’d like to plan for it before it comes.”

There was general agreement on council that trading one site for the other was not a big obstacle. The problem was the existing firehouse. Would the fire district need the town to buy the old building in order to pay for a new one? Especially now, when “we don’t have any money!” emphasized Clark.

“You guys have right of first refusal on that building,” said Gardner. “If you don’t want it, I guess we’d sell it” to someone else.

What good would it be to the town, a big metal building? asked a councilor. Some thought it would be best torn down to make room for more parking downtown. That may be the best use of that site, said Clark, considering the growing need for event parking, like for the river festival.

Not so fast, said Councilor Ellen Hunt. “I struggle with the notion of tearing down a building to create parking. I think the building does have potential for community use, for police department expansion, as a place for Danny’s park equipment. There’s even a second floor. It could be used for dances.”

Councilor Erik Johnson felt that “a straight-across trade [with no money changing hands] would be best for the town.”

“Conceptually, we like it,” Mayor Pat Willits told Gardner. “But we need time to get our arms around it.”

And while we’ve got you here, Willits said, “I do get a lot of complaints about the fire siren.”

A ripple of agreement rolled though the room.

“Only at night,” Willits clarified, though he did question the need in this age of instant communications for a siren at all.

Fireman Dan Bartashius acknowledged the piercing wail is hard to ignore. “The siren goes off for three minutes,” he said. “It’s so the firemen don’t have to carry their pagers with them absolutely all the time. Originally, the siren alerted everybody in town to shut off their water so there’d be enough water to fight the fire. That was back when there were no meters and people just let their water run.

“But, yes,” he said, “we can program the siren to not go off at night. We can do that.”


Councilor Rick Weaver reported to Ridgway’s Town Council on a discussion by the County Fair Board concerning improving RV spaces at the fairgrounds. Improved spaces, with hookups and a dump station, could be a real draw for people coming long distances to events at the fairgrounds, Weaver reported hearing.

Ridgway’s Public Works Director Joann Fagan questioned whether RV sites would be a commercial use, which is prohibited on town-owned property there.

“A dump station?” said Councilor Ellen Hunt. “What would that mean for our sewage treatment plant?”

“In a word, bad,” Fagan replied. “Dump stations use formaldehyde, which doesn’t work well with our bio-system.”

Discussion swirled around pumping and trucking, holding tanks and dumping fees. Finally, Mayor Pat Willits, the council’s liaison to the Fair Board, agreed to look into the matter.

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