Let Them Eat Cake!
OURAY COUNTY – It’s the summer of birthdays for Ouray County’s historic buildings and institutions. Citizens State Bank celebrates its 100th birthday this week; the Wright Opera House is preparing to celebrate its 125th on Aug. 17; and county officials, too, are deep into preparations to celebrate the quasquicentennial (i.e. 125th “birthday”) of their beloved Ouray County Courthouse, a few days later on Thursday, Aug. 22.
The free celebration is planned from 10 a.m. to noon. Members of the Ouray Masonic Lodge will conduct a cornerstone plaque ceremony, and various speakers will relate the colorful history of the building – which over the years has survived floods and fires, and served as a set location during the filming of True Grit in 1968.
“It is our courthouse,” County Clerk Michelle Nauer said. “It is for the community. There is lots and lots of history here; this is a cool building that has a lot going for it.”
The whole community is invited to come to the birthday bash – the historic Ouray County Courthouse is located at 541 Fourth Street in Ouray. A flyer outlining details of the event has been sent to local dignitaries, including former and current county commissioners, state legislators and members of the state and local historical societies. Even Oprah Winfrey is invited.
The party wraps up with a tour of the courthouse, during which visitors can meander through the offices and courtroom, look at old antiques, and enjoy cake, cookies and refreshments in the breezeway.
Nauer and a small committee of fellow courthouse boosters have also initiated a modest capital campaign, with the goal of coming up with $10,000 to kick-start some much-needed renovation projects. Toward this goal, the courthouse birthday celebration will include a silent auction to raise seed money. As Nauer observed, the courthouse has started to look a bit shabby in recent years since the county has been unable to come up with funds for basic maintenance.
“The poor old building needs some TLC, especially on the outside,” Nauer said. “We had a plan in place that fell dormant,” when the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008. “We have the ability to apply for historic grants, but you have to have matching funds. This is the goal of our fundraising, to obtain matching funds to apply for grants.”
Donations can be made in person at the courthouse or mailed to the Ouray County
Clerk, PO Box C, Ouray, CO 81427; make checks payable to: "Ouray County Courthouse Restoration Fund."
Every dollar donated goes directly to restoring the courthouse. “Donations will
ensure the courthouse remains not only the functional site of Ouray County government (as it has for the past 125 gears), but also a landmark for future generations to tour and enjoy,” Nauer said.
Nauer has worked in the courthouse for 32 years – ever since she was 19 years old. She recalls how the elected county officials of earlier days instilled in her the importance of preserving the history and integrity of Ouray County.
“I still have Addie and Mona’s stories,” she said. [Addie Simms was the former county clerk, and Mona Radcliffe was the former county treasurer; both have since passed on.] “I’ve got a lot of the courthouse in me. I’m very passionate about it.”
A BUSY BALLOT IN NOVEMBER
The clock is already ticking in the countdown to this fall’s election, and county residents will have a lot of choices to make in November, County Clerk Michelle Nauer reported to the commissioners on Tuesday this week.
The State of Colorado will have questions pertaining to a marijuana tax (per Amendment 64) and, most likely, a new education tax. Ouray County will have its sales tax question. All three school districts in the county (including a sliver of the Montrose School District in the far northern portion of the county) are holding school board elections this November. Two council seats and the position of mayor are up for vote in the City of Ouray. Ridgway will have its Streetscape bond question.
“And Cedar Hill Cemetery is also a possibility,” for having a funding question on the ballot, Nauer reported. “It will be a crowded ballot. We are gearing up for it.”
TEMPORARY SUNSHADE APPROVED FOR RODEO GRANDSTANDS
Members of the Ouray County Rodeo Association presented a plan to the county commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday to purchase temporary shading material to cover the grandstands at the upcoming Ouray County Labor Day Rodeo, using $1,200 in county funds.
The roof that used to cover the grandstands was removed last spring after being deemed unsafe. The county plans to apply for grants to rebuild the grandstands in the near future, but in the meantime, has been seeking for ways to make the current facility safe and user-friendly for the upcoming rodeo.
Commissioners unanimously approved the expenditure for the sunshade. “I can’t imagine sitting at the Labor Day rodeo without shade,” Commissioner Mike Fedel said.
Commissioner Lynn Padgett then spent some time discussing the overall impact of the fairgrounds facilities (including the 4-H Event Center, and the fair and rodeo grounds).
“I continue to want to see the 4-H Event Center and fairgrounds become something more cost-neutral to county,” Padgett said. “I don’t think taxpayers recognize the degree that the county is spending on these facilities.”
Padgett said that according to her research, the county currently spends $5.60 for every dollar of revenue generated by the 4-H Event Center and fair and rodeo grounds. “The county is spending much more on this community facility than any other program,” she said. “And yet it is still contentious. And yet there are still a lot of raw feelings.”
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