Helping others in their time of need

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 8/6/18

Tragedy often brings out the best in people who are willing to lend a hand. The recent major fire at the Westbury Apartment complex at 115th Avenue and Pecos Street in Westminster is a good example. …

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Helping others in their time of need

Posted

Tragedy often brings out the best in people who are willing to lend a hand. The recent major fire at the Westbury Apartment complex at 115th Avenue and Pecos Street in Westminster is a good example.

There were two deaths and numerous people injured while 140 residents were left homeless from the fire. Westminster Fire Department and other area fire agencies responded to the multi-alarm fire as well as Westminster Police.

According to Fire Chief Doug Hall, police officers played a key role in getting people out of their apartment units while the fire trucks were in route.

Coming together to offer help

Adams 12 Five Star School District opened Silver Hills Middle School with the Red Cross responding to set up temporary shelter and care for the displaced residents. The Salvation Army has provided assistance as well. Both the Fire Department and Adventist Community Services of Denver have put out a plea for donations to help the impacted families including new or gently-used clothing, personal hygiene items, baby items, bedding and linens, housewares, non-perishable food items, pet food and gift cards to grocery or all-purpose stores in increments of $20 or less are preferred.

The former Rodeo Market at 3915 W. 73rd Avenue has been set up as the donation center. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week through Sunday, August 19th.

If you would like to volunteer at the donation center, please contact City Emergency Management Coordinator Greg Moser at gmoser@cityofwestminster.us.

Financial donations can be made to either the Salvation Army or the local chapter of the Red Cross.

The magnitude of this tragedy is the worst that I can recall in the 50 years which we have lived here. Your help would be greatly appreciated in lending a hand to these residents who lost everything.

Addressing major impacts from the I-70 highway project

Speaking of helping others, at a press conference last week CDOT announced it would be awarding $2 million to the Globeville/Ellyria-Swansea Affordable Housing Collaborative in north Denver to help mitigate impacts in their neighborhoods from the I-70 replacement/expansion project.

The massive $1.2 billion highway project is requiring the demolition of 56 homes and 17 businesses which are not a part of using the $2 million. The subject funds will be used to place single family homes with willing owners in a community land trust that keeps them affordable for generations.

Also, plans call for new low-income housing to guide renters into homeownership and using $300,000 to rehab deteriorating houses. Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. and the Colorado Community Land Trust, both lending their expertise in the affordable housing arena, will be managing the funds.

Certainly, the CDOT funds will be leveraged with other state, local and private funds to stretch the amount of assistance to boost the impacted area. The four-year highway project will widen the highway and eliminate the deteriorating concrete viaduct in the neighborhood with a buried highway with a grassy park as the “lid” to the tunneled section.

Local law enforcement support “red flag” legislation

A big “Thank you” goes to the 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock for their recent effort to support the need for a “red flag” law in Colorado.

As you may recall, an effort in the last state legislative session to pass such legislation failed in committee on a partisan vote. “Red flag” legislation would allow guns being temporarily confiscated from severely mentally ill individuals via a judicial process.

Brauchler, who is the Republican candidate for Attorney General, said “The status quo is not working. Should we change the status quo to accommodate this reality that we have an increasing number of people who are in this mental health crisis who have access to weapons who can hurt themselves or hurt others? The answer is yes, and we must take the steps.”

Supporters cite the shooting death of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish. His killer, Matthew Riehl, owned 19 firearms including semi-automatic rifles even though he once had been placed on a mental health hold and in the weeks leading up to the shooting of Parrish had been posting incoherent rants online, threatening his former law school, sending vile emails to his mother and harassing a police officer who had written him a speeding ticket.

Perhaps with the Republican AG candidate on board, this much needed law will get better support in the next legislative session. The district attorney and sheriff are in a position to see the need for such a law on a first-hand, on-going basis.

This is not some liberal, “off-the-wall” idea. It is working in other states. You might want to ask where your state legislative candidates stand on “red flag” legislation along with sheriff and DA candidates. We need to know where they stand too.

New downtown has momentum

Westminster’s “New Downtown” continues to experience momentum.

The groundbreaking for the Alamo Draft House and Origin Hotel is taking place on August 9th. A second apartment project consisting of 226 apartment units by Sherman Company called “Aspire” with underground parking and 34,000 square feet of retail is targeted to begin construction in September.

Other apartment developments are already well along at the former Westminster Mall site. This synergy coupled by the moratorium of new development in the Big Dry Creek Drainage Basin will likely spur additional developers to seriously consider development parcels at the “New Downtown” area. It is important to remember that the build-out of the 105 acre site is projected to take 10-15 years.

I keep hearing people say that the “New Downtown” construction pace is too slow. Let’s be realistic in appreciating the process, the financing, design and construction phases which are involved with a development of this magnitude.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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