In a video statement released on August 6, 2022, Mayor Justin Brooks said,
"Hello, I am Justin Brooks, Mayor of the Town of Erie, Colorado. Today, I am coming to you with an update on the Weld County Road 5 widening project, as well as a little background on the project that may be helpful to know.
For certain development projects that have multiple government/quasi-government stakeholders, the Town of Erie has established an Urban Renewal Authority (URA). Represented on that Commission is the entire BoT, both School Districts (single rep from SVVSD), both counties (single rep from Weld County), and all special districts (one rep for e.g. water, fire, Metros). Upon being appointed to the BoT in December 2021, I joined the URA as a Commissioner replacing former Trustee Gippe. Upon being elected Mayor in April 2022, I was promoted from URA Commissioner to Chairman. Also note that SVVSD School Board Director Meosha Brooks also joined the URA in Spring 2022, after having been elected to the SVVSD school board and appointed by BVSD/SVVSD, replacing Director John Ahrens who served the district that covers Erie.
Why is the URA relevant to WCR5?
The WCR5 widening project is a major undertaking that is a partnership between the Collier’s Hill Metro District (Daybreak/Raintree Development) and the Town of Erie. It is a 60/40 cost sharing agreement, whereby Raintree Development on behalf of the Collier’s Hill Metro District serve as Primary and the Town of Erie agreed to reimburse 40% of the estimated $7.8M project. The plan was presented and approved by the URA on May 11, 2021, which included a project schedule and budget estimate. I recently watched the video of that meeting and noted that there was no discussion about the schedule that covered the duration of the coming school year, though later it was determined that we learned from the Back to School traffic nightmare in the Fall of ‘21 that planning the majority of work for the summer would be essential and remaining coordinated with the project team would be in our best interest.
By Primary, it means that the construction contract for road construction is not with the Town of Erie, rather with the Collier’s Hill Metro District. The Town of Erie Public Works department has still designated a Project Engineer to support the project, obtaining updates and communicating project needs as necessary.
Given our goal of keeping disruption to school traffic to a minimum, the project was organized into six Phases, which was considered impossible to complete within the summer months. Phase 1 kicked off in March 2022, north of Soaring Heights, prior to school letting out, and our PD/Communication staff did an excellent job of communicating traffic pattern changes and responding/adjusting as Flora View Drive was opened.
Our Project Engineer and the Metro District have regular tag-ups, with communication expanding to include SVVSD once we learned of the impactful delay. Dr. Haddad, the SVVSD Superintendent, and Malcolm Fleming our Town Administrator, have an excellent working relationship. In general, our organizations have a strong relationship with a commitment to working together on behalf of our community. Just recently, the Erie BoT and the SVVSD Board had a joint study session, which was focused on school growth.
On July 27th, the latest update provided to the BoT was that the WCR5 project was now in Phase 5 which was anticipated to complete on August 16th (the day before school is scheduled to resume). On Tuesday afternoon (8/2), Trustee Bell initiated an email to our Public Works director requesting an update on the likelihood of the project closing on 8/16 as planned. The immediate response was that at the most recent tag up the Friday prior (7/31), rains during that week saturated the ground and there would be a need for at least a partial closure of the intersection. This response was then forwarded to the BoT on Wednesday (8/3) morning with additional updates from the Project Manager that broken equipment causing other logistical issues had reached a state of urgency.
On Wednesday (8/3) morning, before seeing this update, I noticed a resident question on FB about the status of the project. Our communication strategy for this effort has been to maintain a website with updates. On this website, the contractor’s Project Manager has offered his business contact info for fielding questions as a part of his contract for managing the project. Knowing this, but not knowing about the delay, I posted a link to our website for the project status and quoted the section with the contact info for the project manager (not a Town Employee).
Upon learning about the delay, I met with our Town Administrator by phone to get background info and see what we were already doing in response. Staff had already started on an action plan. To ensure that we have a solid action plan for both closing out the project and mitigating any safety risks, I requested that the Town staff exercise every resource possible to try to get this project closed by the 16th and work with PD/Communications to over-communicate contingency traffic plans to the community. I also requested that this be added to the BoT Meeting Agenda for the following Tuesday (8/9), where we could hear a solid plan for getting the project closed and provide the ability to ask stakeholders such as SVVSD if the plan meets with their respective needs.
Since providing that direction, Town Staff including the Erie PD has been working diligently with SVVSD, Colliers Hill Metro District and their contractor to make a solid plan. On Thursday (8/4), after meeting with SVVSD, our PD provided our Communications staff with a Safe Routes to school plan, which will include live traffic direction by our officers and volunteer crossing guards to keep our kids safe.
Note for awareness: According to our PD, after a thorough investigation into the report of a child who was injured last year during the back to school traffic jam, it was found that the driver was not at fault.
Friday (8/5) afternoon, I was able to get in contact with the SVP of Raintree Development who is managing the project to make sure that he understood the urgency of this project and how important it would be to have it closed by 16 Aug. He coordinated with his contractor who committed to getting it closed, which would include their crews working 7 days per week. In parallel, Town Staff was lining up a second contractor to take on the night shifts to supplement, but we were assured that this would not be necessary. Also yesterday, I communicated this update to the SVVSD School Board, who will be present at our meeting on Tuesday. Also on Friday, EPD and SVVSD did an on-site meeting to review the Safe Routes Plan for any additional nuances that may need adding before putting out the SVVSD Comms (they will be made consistent if changes are necessary).
This is still a plan in progress and we will keep the public updated through our Communications Department, though we anticipate that most questions will be answered Tuesday night at the BoT meeting.
Thank you for your patience and I apologize on behalf of all involved for the inconvenience. We will get through this together."