|Loveland Officials Pitch Centerra (McWhinney)
As Top Priority for Funding of Stimulus In Region
State of Colorado asks cities for a list of "shovel ready" transportation projects
LovelandPolitics Exclusive Story
Loveland - January 24, 2009
The City of Loveland has named "shovel ready" a transportation project for the State of
Colorado in hopes of receiving several million dollars of President Obama's nationwide
stimulus package to address national transportation infrastructure needs. Congress is
currently deliberating over the "bail-out" package that will also include funds to be
distributed for local transportation projects around the country. Some Loveland officials
appear to be working on behalf of McWhinney Enterprises to divert these funds exclusively
into a Centerra transportation project that was supposed to be funded by the Centerra
The project Loveland has identified as "shovel ready" is the intersection at Crossroads Blvd
and I-25 on the North end of Centerra via the installation of a Roundabout. Anyone familiar
with the massive tax subsidy for McWhinney's metro district will recognize the Crossroads
Roundabout as one McWhinney agreed to fund as part of their " regional improvements" in
exchange for receiving an estimated $600 million in future Loveland sales and property
taxes for 25 years.
According to an unnamed source inside the Colorado Department of Transportation
(CDOT), the interchange at Crossroads and I-25 does not qualify to be on the "shovel ready"
list for federal funding. This is because the project is already funded thus any new moneys
coming into Loveland will be subsidizing the McWhinney's and their existing obligations
instead of providing new transportation dollars for the community to fund genuine
transportation needs. Loveland first tried, through the proposed Regional Transportation
Authority (RTA), to get regional local governments to propose a new 1% sales tax to fund
those and other desired highway expansions. Today Loveland is seeking new federal
"stimulus" funds to also further subsidize McWhinney's metro district instead of pursuing
federal dollars for unfunded or partially funded Loveland transportation projects that will
not be built without the federal dollars.
In a meeting held with council members from ten Northern Colorado cities along with a
technical advisory committee (TAC) consisting mostly of staff from the various cities and city
managers gathered to clarify the state's intention of organizing a list of "shovel ready"
projects. According to CDOT the organization responsible for organizing the meeting, CDOT
carefully explained to everyone present that transportation projects with funding already
identified are not eligible for the federal money but instead only those projects with no
funding or partial funding. The term "shovel ready" refers to projects already on the State
Implementation Plan (SIP) which is the one criteria the Crossroads project does meet.
CDOT officials are concerned that Loveland has ignored the rules and submitted for funding
a project that already has a funding mechanism in place. This could result in Loveland not
receiving any of the transportation dollars made available through the stimulus package for
communities across the country.
Did Loveland's City Manager Provide the State False Information?
According to one source, CDOT initially responded to inquiries about Crossroads and the
Roundabouts by providing the following;
"In the case of the Crossroads Roundabouts, the dedicated funding is coming through
Windsor, Loveland and the URA. As we heard at the meeting, the agreement for funding
is split between the three, with an original cost estimate of $3.6M. The estimate is now
over $6M, and the $3M on the stimulus list is a placeholder to "make whole" the project.
It is not to replace any of the funding already identified."
The information CDOT indicated was presented in the regional meeting is not entirely
accurate. Loveland failed to disclose the details of the Centerra Metro District funding and
the fact that any additional federal dollars are going to supplant money already planned for
that interchange. In other words, the statement above that none of the money is going to
replace any funding already identified is simply not true. The question now appears to be
who within the City of Loveland is responsible for misleading CDOT.
Subsequent of the multi-city meeting, LovelandPolitics has learned that the City of Loveland
lobbied CDOT again directly to include Crossroads on the "shovel ready" list for federal
funding and again failed to disclose that McWhinney already agreed to provide $25 million
for the Crossroads intersection with I-25 by 2024 as part of the MFA (Master Financing
Agreement) with the City of Loveland.
In December of 2006, the Loveland City Council voted as suggested by the city manager to
amend the McWhinney's controversial agreement with the city. The amendment removed
any obligations by the Centerra Metro District to complete or even fund the "regional
improvements" as promised provided other government funding could be identified. Since
2006, McWhinney has been lobbying to divert any potentially new transportation dollars
for Loveland into their projects that are supposed to be funded through the Centerra Metro
In late November last year, Loveland Mayor Gene Pielin circulated a letter to colleagues
seeking to secure funds from Governor Ritter's administration to widen I-25; ignoring the
CDOT EIS process which was underway. This renegade tactic was interpreted by CDOT as
an attempt to subvert their established process for prioritizing funding. In the end, the
effort failed to gain any support from regional officials but instead further alienated
Loveland from decision makers in state government for new transportation projects.
The Cost of Incompetence and Special Interests
Ft. Collins and Greeley officials who voted not to join the RTA 1% regional sales tax initiative
to improve regional transportation did so, in part, due to Loveland's unabashed attempts to
steer the funds to McWhinney. Loveland City Manager Don Williams attempted to put
McWhinney priorities ahead of city needs by proposing Loveland's share in the regional
sales tax would go to relieve McWhinney of their obligations in the MFA (Master Financing
Agreement) instead of using the new funding to improve roads or intersections outside
Council members in Ft. Collins and Greeley first tried to seek a compromise with Loveland
but finally pulled-out of the RTA given Williams' intransigent position on using the money to
replace funds already promised by McWhinneys. Finally, the RTA was not able to move
forward and the effort was abandoned by the other two cities leaving Loveland as the only
large city "holding the bag."
Now, the State of Colorado is seeking input from the cities on where to spend new stimulus
transportation dollars but Williams is again singing the same tune. Again the appearance
that Loveland is speaking like a lobbyist for McWhinney instead of an independent
municipality is putting the funding in jeopardy and the credibility of the city government at
The McWhinneys have sought permission from the city council to use the tax money
collected by the Centerra Metro District for projects that are not really public infrastructure
but instead improve McWhinney's bottom line by subsidizing future projects directly. In
2006, facing reelection, the council voted against allowing the McWhinneys to use the Metro
District dollars for a trolley car for shoppers at the proposed Grand Station. The council did
allow the McWhinneys through their metro district to fund $80 million of Metro District
funds to build a private parking garage to be used in the proposed Grand Station.
Bait and Switch
McWhinney Enterprises promised the City of Loveland a myriad of regional transportation
improvements (see list on upper right corner of this page) in exchange for being given the
authority to divert sales and property taxes in East Loveland for 25 years into a special
metro district controlled by McWhinney.
Now the switch, the only improvements funded so far are those that directly impact
commercial properties the McWhinneys were trying to lease or sell at the time. In the
meantime, the McWhinneys have been working feverishly to divert new transportation
dollars into their projects thus leaving more funds for "improvements" that really appear to
be thinly disguised subsidies of the project.
The result has been the inability of Loveland to effectively collaborate with surrounding
cities or the State of Colorado to fund badly needed improvements to the regional
transportation infrastructure. Until Loveland has a city council and city manager willing to
hold McWhinney's feet to the fire by insisting they fund the projects as agreed to in the
original MFA, Loveland's ability to partner with other cities or the state in obtaining new
transportation dollars will be doubtful.
|Click on the image above to see the list of projects McWhinney
Enterprises' Centerra Metro District was supposed to fund according
agreement with city. Now they are seeking others to fund them.