Letter to the Editor: Fifth Street closing hearing a farce

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Dear Editor:
And now, the “rest of the story.” The Town of Meeker held a planning commission hearing Monday to determine whether Fifth Street between Main and Park streets should be closed so the county can “create a park” between the school and the courthouse.”
After considerable testimony by concerned citizens who opposed closing the long-standing street due to cutting off access to one of only two remaining streets that are through routes to the hospital and hill area and direct access to the museum, which is a magnet for heritage tourism, the commission in its infinite wisdom endorsed the county’s request to close the street.
This, of course, will likely have been rubber stamped last night by the Meeker Town Board in passing an ordinance to close the street. Again, all part of the glorious plan to make the classic downtown area into a penal institution.
“You can put lipstick on a pig, but the fact remains that it is still only a pig.”
Sadly, the building design will be mostly brick and little if any red sandstone masonry, as is the current soon-to-be-demolished classic art deco WPA-built school. Worse yet, the design has a bunch of sloped ski-area-style roofs and an entrance tacked onto the front of the old school that hides the classic art deco design.
It is tragic that elected officials have no vision or concept for the future of the downtown area. Suggestions were made to bring in experienced urban planners to make recommendations, as was done nearly four years ago, when the University of Colorado at Denver School of Architecture came in and provided an excellent plan that would have provided a number of options for the downtown area that would have provided economic development, assisted-living for seniors, an arts and cultural center for the youth, adults and seniors, a conference and performing arts center, a startup incubator for small businesses and so much more to bring much-needed heritage and agri-tourism to the town and county.
That plan sits on the shelf gathering dust. A great effort but sadly ignored.
But no. It is far more important to have a jail in the middle of the downtown historic area that could easily have been built north of the courthouse or at the Meeker Terrace. When the commissioners were asked repeatedly at the hearings and most recently at their Monday meeting in Rangely where they approved the jail project to go forth, “…why they didn’t have the architect design a parallel plan for a building north of the courthouse or at Meeker Terrace?” they declined to answer. Just as they declined to answer a number of other important questions unless they were favorable to their mission.
Make no mistake, Meeker, Rangely and unincorporated Rio Blanco County is in desperate economic condition and is getting worse by the day. If something that is highly likely to bring heritage and agri-tourism to the county very soon is not implemented, it is not at all unlikely that the tumbleweeds may start rolling through what was a beautiful town.
Other Colorado communities have made great progress with tourism, but Rio Blanco County is still waiting and waiting and waiting.
Are the inmates running the asylum? Something has got to be done, but it can only be done if the citizens stand up for their rights and compel their elected officials to serve their interests and needs, or find candidates who will serve their needs since the current incumbents clearly have no intention of doing so.
Remain silent and you will get to live with the product of your inaction and complacency. You may not like it very much, but you will only have yourself to blame for the end result.
Mary Ann Wilber