On Tuesday, February 4th the Manitou Springs City Council approved a 0.3% sales tax that will support arts and culture in Manitou Springs. This tax is based on the MACH the ballot measure that passed in December 2019 and will go into effect on July 1, 2020. The MACH tax will be collected for 14.5 years.
Download MACH Proposal for City Council Information Packet
What is the MACH ('match') initiative?
Shorter Version: By simply putting back a tiny part of the City’s sales tax, mostly paid by tourists, the people of Manitou Springs will sustain the arts, culture, and our unique heritage for today and future generations.
Longer Description: An opportunity exists to replace a recently ended small part of the City’s sales tax in order to provide critical funding for approximately two dozen Manitou Springs non-profits that are arts, culture, and heritage-oriented. This small sliver of the City’s sales tax would result in ongoing and sustainable funding directed towards shoring up Manitou’s existing critical social infrastructure—the organizations and people that make Manitou, Manitou—including the Historic Carnegie Building Project, the Manitou Art Center, the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, Miramont Castle, and a competitive grant program for dozens of others.
How will the MACH initiative impact tourism, shopping, and business owners?
It is unlikely that such a small amount would have any meaningful impact on visitor’s shopping habits—adding three pennies to a ten dollar purchase is unlikely to deter shoppers. However, the MACH initiative will empower events that draw arts, culture, and heritage tourists who often spend more and tread carefully in our community. Local businesses stand to profit from the MACH initiative, particularly during the parts of the year when visitors are harder to come by, which is when arts, culture, and heritage events can supplement slow sales. Perhaps most importantly, the MACH initiative aligns the interests of Manitou’s business and non-profit communities—by weaving these two groups closer together, both win.
Lastly, visitors come to Manitou Springs because it is a community of unique arts, culture, and heritage—it only makes sense that some small sliver of what they spend would be set aside to sustain and support these community qualities.
Who will decide where the MACH initiative money goes? Who will decide where the MACH-supported grant money goes? How?
As with all other receipts, the City will collect the revenue, and first fund the modernization of the historic Carnegie building (roughly one-third of the overall MACH initiative amount over time). Next, one-third will be distributed to three major non-profits (with large, existing, brick and mortar expenses) that serve the arts, culture, and heritage in Manitou Springs: the Manitou Art Center, Miramont Castle, and the Manitou Springs Heritage Center. Because the MACH initiative receipts will be subject to change, the remaining money (the final one-third of the MACH initiative amount) would be disbursed on a set annual schedule as grants for community projects, programs and initiatives.
The MAC, MHC, and Miramont have been around for decades and seem to be doing fine – why do they suddenly need this money?
Since grant funding typically supports programming, but not infrastructure, their legacy capital expenses have caught up with them. Without sustained support, they face tough choices ahead that may very will diminish their ability to continue to operate and support Manitou Springs. On the other hand, the MACH initiative would inject much-needed resources and energy into these critical community organizations and enable them to make longer-term plans that would open up significant opportunities for all of Manitou Springs to benefit from.
Why isn’t the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) paying to expand the library? Why not the Friends of the Library?
The City of Manitou Springs proudly owns the historic Carnegie building that houses the library. The PPLD is merely the tenant for that building, and pays rent to the City of Manitou Springs for its use and operation. Therefore, it’s up to the City of Manitou Springs to modernize the historic Carnegie building.
The PPLD, however, as the building’s tenant, stands ready to fill the newly expanded, modernized, and accessible building with full furnishings, double the books and computers, to truly take a newly renovated house and make it a fantastic new home for the community’s lifelong learning needs.
The Friends of the Library is a relatively small, Pikes Peak region-wide booster organization for the entire library system, and not equipped or resourced to support such a local endeavor.
Was consideration given to other city needs or departments?
Arts, culture, and heritage have historically been left out of City funding outside of one-off projects. The MACH initiative would be the first funding of any sustained significance dedicated to these vital parts of Manitou’s social infrastructure. This initiative is merely the first step in a multi-phase process to fund several of our City’s needs. By tackling critical arts, culture, and heritage needs, this frees up the City to concentrate on other important infrastructure projects—a win-win proposition.
Was consideration given to needs identified in the Plan Manitou goals and policies?
“Plan Manitou,” adopted by the City of Manitou Springs in May 2017, includes an appendix known as the document’s “Action Plan,” generally defined as “long-term actions” to be “implemented at [the] three-year point and beyond.” It includes 46 total Goals. The MACH initiative directly meets or addresses 18 of those Goals, and indirectly impacts (or likely will impact) another 7 Goals, for a total of 25 out of Plan Manitou’s 46 Goals.
More precisely, the MACH initiative directly addresses 33 percent of Plan Manitou’s long-term actions and 15 percent of its short-term actions.
By any measure, the MACH initiative moves Manitou forward.
What will happen to the Carnegie Building if the City is sued for not being ADA compliant? Can’t we make it ADA compliant without an addition?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 “grandfathered” in a number of historic buildings, for an unspecified amount of time, on a case-by-case basis, so as not to impose financial burdens on small communities. But, for buildings such as this, this grace period was never meant to be forever. It is simply no longer viable to claim the financial cost is too great when Manitou Springs is literally the only community in the region (and well beyond) that has not addressed this problem.
Left unaddressed, this exposes the City of Manitou Springs to lawsuit: for injury, in the difficulty imposed on an elderly person trying to navigate the split-level, 20-step, 3-tier entryway; or for discrimination, because demographics reveal that an increasing portion of Manitou cannot use their public library.
There is also no “just-bolt-a-ramp-on-the-side” option here. Once inside, those with wheelchairs or other accessibility needs would still be unable to get around a building that was never intended for such use (for just one example, the tiny single bathroom is on the bottom floor). Size and accessibility must be addressed simultaneously; one cannot be done separate of the other.
Why isn’t Hiawatha Gardens included in the MACH initiative?
Hiawatha Gardens is still in the planning stages. As that project is further developed, it can apply for MACH funding through the competitive grant process.
How much will the MACH initiative take?
Three pennies for every ten dollars spent in Manitou Springs will support the arts, culture, and our heritage. The City’s sales tax rate in 2018 was 9.03 percent and dropped 0.3 percent to 8.73 percent on December 31, 2018. The MACH initiative would simply replace that amount of the City’s sales tax.
How much will the MACH initiative generate annually?
Based on current projections, approximately $300,000 would be raised annually by replacing this small part of the City’s sales tax. Of course, ups and downs in the economy will impact this amount and so it will shift over time.
How will the MACH initiative impact residents? What community needs are resolved with the historic building expansion – as well as the other aspects of the MACH initiative?
In many ways. A modernized Carnegie building that retains its character will better serve all of Manitou’s citizens for generations to come through the Information Age. Economically, educationally, socially, and morally—all of Manitou Springs benefits. 2017 is the most recent year data was available from, but it’s clear the library provides exceptional value despite its extreme size and accessibility constraints:
Moreover, the entire MACH initiative supports and sustains the vital social infrastructure that underpins everything that makes Manitou Springs a great community to live in. Voting for this initiative will ensure the community solidifies its claim as one of Colorado’s great destinations for arts, culture, and heritage.
MACH organizations in 2018
Why do the MAC, MHC, and Miramont get fixed dollar amounts? Why not other groups? What was the criteria?
These three organizations are the longest-serving, largest non-profit organizations in Manitou Springs that have buildings or other capital expenses to sustain their community service. Other non-profit groups also do exemplary work in the arts, culture, and heritage sector, but do not quite face the same financial challenges as these three organizations that owning and maintaining a building can create. Of course, other groups will be able to benefit from the MACH initiative’s sustained funding through the grant process.
Are there any other opportunities being investigated to fund the MACH projects?
To varying degrees, for decades, each non-profit organization in the MACH initiative that serves arts, culture, and heritage in Manitou Springs has pursued funding from grants and through a variety of other sources. Even though these non-profits generate annual grants and donations, those monies are entirely dedicated to programming and subject to change significantly on a year-by-year basis. This denies local non-profits the ability to make important capital improvements and long-term decisions—the MACH initiative is their best hope and final recourse to truly upgrade their community support.
Why can’t the library just do as it’s always done – it’s not broke, so why fix it? What drives the need for the historic Carnegie building expansion?
That’s just it, it is broke. The building opened its doors on February 22, 1912, when the population of Manitou Springs was less than one-third what it is today. Moreover, in those days, people lived to 50 on average, and today it’s normal to live well beyond 80. So they weren’t thinking of accessibility for those with physical difficulties like we do nowadays. In fact, Manitou’s library is the only library in all the Pikes Peak region (and well beyond) that is not ADA-compliant.
Beyond that, the expansion and upgrade would enable the city to live up to its announced values, which proclaim on every official city document that “the City of Manitou Springs does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the admission to, access to, or operations of programs, services or activities.” As it stands, the City’s historic Carnegie building does discriminate and deters a significant part of Manitou’s residents from using their library.
Salida’s historic Carnegie building, almost exactly the same size as Manitou’s (just under 3,000 sq. ft.), was expanded to 11,000 sq. ft. in the mid-1990s. Other nearby communities, like Woodland Park (42,000 sq. ft.), Florissant (7,600 sq. ft.), and Calhan (soon to open at 2,400 sq. ft.), have library buildings that are considerably larger and disabled-accessible. If they can do it, so can Manitou Springs.
Are economical or environmental concerns addressed regarding facilities design and use? (What about the tree that will have to be cut down? What about the loss of the sledding hill? What about the greenstone rock wall that will have to be moved?)
When the historic Carnegie building architectural plans were agreed to, they went through two events with critical public feedback, and three unanimously-approved engagements with City Council and other City boards. Over the course of that process, economic and environmental issues were strongly considered in the selected architectural design. The design retains the Carnegie building’s historic character, and meets the needs of a dynamic and growing community in the Information Age. Moreover, the building modernization will save City maintenance money over time, which has grown to be a considerable expense with such an old and aging building.
As far as specific considerations ancillary to the building’s modernization, including landscaping and park space, there is room for continued community conversation and compromise on these various issues. There will be another round of community input through a well-advertised engagement process, which should result in net community gains through consensus.
For example, the loss of any tree or shrub may be offset by the planting of many others. There might also be space inside the newly expanded historic Carnegie building to include an interpretive environmental learning section for all ages that explains Manitou’s commitment to its unique natural infrastructure.
The current historic Carnegie building footprint uses up a mere 8 percent of the total surrounding park space; when complete, the expanded footprint will use roughly 17 percent, leaving over 80 percent of the park for recreation activities and community events of all shapes and types.
Moreover, the vehicle pull-through envisioned to enable disabled access to the historic Carnegie building may well provide an unanticipated benefit to the local school district and Manitou Springs Elementary School. It is well known that current child drop-off and pick-up vehicle movement is challenging at MSES at best; the upgraded ingress/egress to the modernized Carnegie building should, with some forethought, provide a better and safer way in and out of MSES for staff, parents, and, most importantly, children.
Finally, this vehicle pull-through is currently impeded by a rock wall, a wall which is a very real barrier to library entry to many in our community. What better signal could Manitou Springs send than to tear down that wall—a symbol of division for so many—and repurpose those stones to build a bridge and an entry arch that welcomes all members of the community?