WHAT IS A NATURAL RESOURCE CENTER?
The Natural Resource Center (“NRC”) is an effort to consolidate Salida’s resource management agencies on a single multi-agency campus. Six separate federal and state natural resource management agencies currently operate 12 different facilities throughout Chaffee County. A seventh agency (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has expressed interest in developing a new satellite office in the area. Each of these seven agencies has expressed an interest in forming a partnership to consolidate existing and proposed facilities into a single, multi-agency natural resource center:
• U.S. Forest Service
• U.S. Bureau of Land Management
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife
• Colorado State Forest Service
In addition to the tenants identified above, there may be additional opportunities to include related local agencies or providers of higher education. Discussions are underway with Colorado State University about creation of a new education facility at the site.
Predicted outcomes of the NRC include improving and consolidating visitor information services, reducing agency operating costs, expanding each agency’s operational capacity, promoting outdoor education, providing a public meeting and education facility, and fostering inter-agency cooperation. The NRC would also provide an exemplary national model for collocating federal and state agencies. There will also be resulting positive impacts to the local economy through improved visitor experiences and attractions, increased regional presence of the land management agencies and new jobs and associated impacts of higher education.
The City Council of the City of Salida and Board of County Commissioners for Chaffee County are supportive of the NRC project as an economic development tool for southern Chaffee County. A NRC Feasibility Report for the project was completed in 2006 by OTAK which found that the Natural Resource Center could employ 131 full and part-time employees with a total of 11 new jobs added through additional office space and expanded services.
The feasibility study evaluated visitor habits and spending and found that visitation levels to the area would rise 1 % – 5% following construction of the Natural Resource Center. Total visitation can be expected to rise by 16,000 to 80,000 people per year. Direct visitor spending is expected to increase by $1.7 million per year under the medium growth forecast. After accounting for indirect impacts, the total annual economic impact of the NRC is expected to range from nearly $1.0 million (low), $2.8 million (medium), and $4.6 million (high). Cumulative economic impacts over 20 years are expected to range from $19 to $92 million.
WHAT IS THE NRC BOARD?
The Natural Resource Center Development Corporation (“NRC Board”) is a Colorado not-for-profit corporation formed by the Salida City Council pursuant to Internal Revenue Service Ruling 63-20 through Resolution 2009-56. This type of corporate structure preserves the ability for a project to be financed with tax-exempt bonds, while maintaining for both the public and private participants most of the benefits of private development. The advantages of using a nonprofit sponsor to undertake a private/public partnership include, among other things: facilitating the transfer to the private sector significant project risk while preserving the ability to finance the project through the issuance of tax-exempt debt if necessary; and combining the relative strength of the public sector with the private sector’s value added efficiency and innovation in ideas.
The NRC Board is appointed by the City Council. Current members:
- Tom Yerkey (term to expire January 15, 2014)
- Keith Baker (term to expire January 15, 2014)
- Tim Glenn (term to expire January 15, 2015)
- Susan Dempsey Hughes (term to expire January 15, 2015)
- Walt Harder (term to expire January 15, 2014)
- Jim Miller (term to expire January 15, 2015)
- Ray Kitson (term to expire January 15, 2014)
The Articles of Incorporation were filed on December 18, 2009. The NRC organizational minutes and all NRC Board Minutes from formation through the present are posted on this website as are the original NRC Bylaws.
The City Council formed the NRC Board in 2009 for the sole purpose of development of a natural resource center. The NRC Board operates under this Development Agreement adopted by the City Council on July 6, 2010, the First Amendment to the Development Agreement adopted July 5, 2011 and Second Amendment to the Development Agreement adopted September 13, 2011. Transfer of Vandaveer Ranch property to the NRC Board was approved through Ordinance 2011-14 approved by the Council on August 16, 2011.
WHO IS PAYING FOR THE NATURAL RESOURCE CENTER?
The intention of the City Council has been to accomplish the creation of a natural resource center without direct expense to the citizens of Salida through the outlay of cash.
Construction and management of the U.S. Forest Service facility, to be completed in April 2013, has been financed through Collegiate Peaks Bank. The $4.6 million project did receive a cash infusion of $300,000 through the sale of 16-acres of land to Pinto Barn in 2012. The balance of the approximately $4.3 million will be repaid over the next 20 years through lease payments by the U.S. Forest Service. The Lease with the U.S. Forest Service is for 20 years- 10 years firm, with two 5 year options. The balance of the Vandaveer Ranch was used for collateral on the loan.
The U.S. Forest Service construction project includes the expense of extending infrastructure to the site. This includes the extension of a 12″ water main from Oak Street and Hwy 50 to the site, extension of an 8″ sewer main from CR 105 to Hwy 50, and gas, electricity and cable. Also included in this expense is construction of a new access from Hwy 50 to the eastern portion of the Vandaveer Ranch. These significant improvements are being paid for through the project financing, not through City general or enterprise funds. These improvements have been sized to accommodate future development of the site.
After the debt has been repaid the U.S. Forest Service facility will revert to the City of Salida. Lease payments also include funds for maintenance, operation and repair of the facility.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT?
Construction of a new area office for the U.S. Forest Service is underway with completion expected in early April 2013. The project is being constructed as a LEED Silver building. The U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service, will also have offices in this building.
Discussions with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are coming to fruition. This newly merged state agency is in negotiations to purchase Lot 3 of the NRC subdivision adjacent to the U.S. Forest Service facility. A closing date for this transaction has tentatively been set for April 15, 2013. Along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife comes the Bureau of Land Management and their Salida staff who work primarily with Parks in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is committed to beginning construction of new area offices at the site within five years.
Initial conversations have also begun with Colorado State University (“CSU”) about the possibility of a presence in Salida. The scope of this campus is yet to be defined. CSU is evaluating program opportunities and gauging interest with the various schools and colleges within the university. CSU was approached through the Warner College of Natural Resources, but discussions have been held with the CSU Provost and possibilities are not limited to only the Warner College.
WHERE IS THE NRC?
Plans for the NRC are being developed on a portion of the property known as the Salida NRC Subdivision. As shown on the NRC Subdivision aerial it is part of the Vandaveer Ranch in Salida. Vandaveer Ranch is located approximately 1.5 miles southeast of downtown Salida and can be accessed from U.S. Highway 50. The site forms the gateway to Salida as visitors enter the Upper Arkansas Valley from the Big Horn Sheep Canyon to the east. The project is being designed with sensitive site planning and as a gateway to Salida and Chaffee County.
The property is within the municipal boundary and has been zoned as part of the Vandaveer Ranch Overall Development Plan.
HOW IS THE DOWNTOWN AHRA HEADQUARTERS INVOLVED?
The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (“AHRA”) headquarters is located in downtown Salida on Sackett Ave across the street from the SteamPlant. This facility includes employees from both Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. The City of Salida obtained most of this land in 1990 with the purpose of attracting this headquarters facility. The State entered into a 99-year lease for the property at that time and constructed the improvements on the site.
As part of the negotiations for attracting the state to construct new offices for Parks and Wildlife at the NRC, they have requested title to the downtown property. A more complete explanation of the background of the property and possibilities for disposition is available in this January 22, 2013 memo to City Council re: AHRA.
WHAT CAN BE DEVELOPED ON THE SITE?
Development of the Vandaveer Ranch is guided by the Vandaveer Ranch Overall Development Plan and the Amendment to the Vandaveer Ranch Overall Development Plan adopted October 18, 2011.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Efforts to form a combined NRC in Salida began more than 12 years ago. The vision for the campus is a combined location for all of the public resource management agencies currently located in Salida. After an extensive feasibility, impact and site selection study completed in 2006, the Vandaveer Ranch emerged as the only possible site for a natural resource center.
Because of federal leasing requirements and restrictions, the project could not begin until the U.S. Forest Service went through their competitive selection process for a new building in southern Chaffee County. In August of 2009 with Resolution 209-44, the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners of Chaffee County affirmed their support for the location of an NRC at the Vandaveer site through a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”). Each entity pledged $10,000 towards efforts to realize development of the project. The MOU and the City’s resolution forming the NRC Board clearly state recognition of the anticipated economic benefits the project will bring to both the City and County.
In anticipation of the upcoming US Forest Service selection process the Salida City Council, by Resolution 2009-56, created a Colorado not-for-profit in 2009 called the Salida Natural Resource Center Development Corporation (“NRC Board”).
Initial members of the NRC Board included Tim Glenn, Jack Lewis and Dara MacDonald. Tom Yerkey and Keith Baker were appointed to the NRC Board in July, 2011. Jack Lewis resigned from the NRC Board in March, 2012.
In December of 2009 the NRC Board released a request for proposals for development teams to serve as a provider of preconstruction services and as a contractor for the NRC project. Submittals were received from seven teams including two with prior US Forest Service experience and several with local team members. The NRC Board reviewed the responses, interviewed several teams and selected the group most qualified for the project with primary members from BYG Group and REGen.
On December 22, 2009 the US Forest Service called for “presolicitation letters” from parties who might be interested in bidding to lease facilities. The NRC Board submitted such a letter on January 15, 2010. The Solicitation for Offers was released by the US Forest Service in June, 2010 with responses due by July 30, 2010. The NRC Board, with assistance from BYG & REGen, submitted a response to the US Forest Service solicitation. On August 30, 2010 the NRC Board entered into a Certificate of Nondisclosure with the US Forest Service preventing any communication about the project. All discussions and negotiations relating to the procurement process were classified as “confidential” under the agreement.
In September, 2010 the NRC Board response was selected to submit a further “Best and Final Offer” by September 9, 2010, which offer was submitted. The NRC Board was notified of their selection to construct a new facility for the US Forest Service at the Vandaveer Ranch on September 14, 2010. The United States Government Accountability Office reviewed a protest of the solicitation and selection process made by Industrial Leasing Partnership of Salida and dismissed the protest on March 17, 2011. The lease was received by the NRC Board from the US Forest Service on April 15, 2011.
In the meantime, the NRC Board continued to pursue Colorado Division of Parks and the Division of Wildlife to locate on the NRC campus. There was ongoing correspondence, meetings with staff and presentations to the Wildlife Commission through late 2009 and 2010. In late 2010 two things occurred. Through some accounting errors it became apparent that the Division of Wildlife had $32 million less in capital funds and the state decided to merge the Division of Parks and the Division of Wildlife into one agency. These two things caused a hiatus in discussions about a new facility in Salida until they were renewed again in early 2012.
During the time lag from July, 2010 until the US Forest Service lease was issued in April, 2011, there were some significant shifts in the lending market that caused the NRC Board to reevaluate the financing for the project, including a downgrade in the credit rating of the federal government. The plan for funding development of the site was consistently based on the idea that the debt issued to fund construction would be repaid through lease payments by the various agencies. The NRC Board solicited proposals for funding from a variety of providers and settled on a traditional loan structure with Collegiate Peaks Bank.
The NRC Board and REGen also went back out to the construction market looking for a construction company to building the US Forest Service facility. The Board settled on Shaw Construction after a competitive review process. The NRC Board also considered the partnership of Haselden/Diesslin Construction for the guaranteed maximum price contract. Closing of the $4,344,000 million dollar loan with Collegiate Peaks in March, 2012 allowed for issuance of the construction contract, including performance and payment bonds, not only for the US Forest Service facility but also for construction of the public infrastructure in the site including the construction of Cleora Road and extension of water and sewer to the Vandaveer Ranch and adjacent properties.
The Pinto Barn project is another economic development opportunity that arose during the US Forest Service solicitation and review process. With the pending extension of infrastructure to the Vandaveer Ranch and available in-City land, Pinto Barn became interested in the site and approached the NRC Board with a purchase offer. With the funds paid by Pinto Barn for 16-acre Lot 1 of the Natural Resource Center Subdivision, the NRC Board was able to provide initial funding for the Collegiate Peaks Bank loan.
A purchase and sale agreement between the NRC Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) has been circulated and CPW has ordered an appraisal of Lot 3 of the Natural Resource Center Subdivision. It is the intention of Director Cables and the Parks and Wildlife Commission to construct the first combined facility in the state at this site housing both Parks and Wildlife since the merger of the two agencies. Although they have had some financial struggles in recent years, the agency is willing to commit to constructing the new facility within five years. Initial conversations and plans for the facility include not only offices and shop space but also classroom space that could be used for regional agency meetings and education related to hunting, fishing and the outdoors.
Combining the US Forest Service offices and Colorado Parks and Wildlife together on the Vandaveer site is the second phase of the NRC campus. This will provide straightforward one-stop shopping for visitors to the area whether they are seeking a fishing license or a camping spot. The co-location will also allow for greater collaboration between the agencies resulting in better service to the public.