(PUEBLO, Colo.) – The Mayor of Pueblo kicking off 2023 with a State of the City address on Friday, outlining what has been accomplished in the past year, and what they have planned for the future.

“The City of Pueblo has lagged behind the rest of Colorado in development. That’s beginning to change,” said the Mayor of Pueblo, Nick Gradisar.

The future of Pueblo is looking up, according to Mayor Gradisar. His speech can be broken down into five different topics; the growth of the city, repairing and installing new infrastructure, housing, reducing crime, and homelessness.

Increased growth of the city

Gradisar demonstrated the growth of the city through sales tax collection. In 2018, sales tax collection was reported at $50 million, by 2021 that number grew to $70 million, and for 2022 they are estimating it will exceed $73 million. In the span of four years, sales tax collection grew by $23 million.

In order for the city to accommodate this growth and development, he says the city needs to be improving at the same rate it is growing.

Repairing and installing infrastructure

“The number one complaint we get from our citizens… is the condition of our streets,” said Gradisar.

Gradisar outlined how the city will be tackling its biggest issues, starting with its number one complaint.

“With $10 million being budgeted for street repairs for the City of Pueblo for 2023, including, finally the rebuilding of Prairie Avenue,” said Gradisar, which got a resounding applause.

The city will also repair; Joplin Avenue, Dillon Drive, Troy Avenue, Cheyenne Avenue, and Court Street.

Other upcoming infrastructure developments include a focus of resources on the west side neighborhood:

  • The West Side Connector Project: a bridge over railroad tracks that currently obstructs access from the west side to downtown
  • $6 million to upgrade the sanitary sewer system
  • 600-unit housing project planned by Neighbor Works
  • 300-unit market-rate apartment complex planned by a private developer
  • New fire station
  • Site for the new jail on 24th Street

“This investment in this historically underfunded neighborhood will lead to development and increased economic activity,” said Gradisar.

The City of Pueblo received $16.8 million through the Rebuilding America Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity or RAISE grant. The city will be using it to fund these projects that developers would normally not be able to afford.

Housing & community investments

The goal is to revitalize all neighborhoods. Through a new housing initiative, the city will be rehabilitating vacant properties into homes for occupancy. So far 184 liens have already been filed and are ready to be sold to developers.

“We believe that this will increase the affordable housing supply and it will also clear up some blight in some of our older neighborhoods where these boarded-up homes are,” said Gradisar.

To accommodate the city’s growth, four new fire stations will be constructed in the next several years. Three of the new stations will replace current, “outdated stations.”

“They will be relocated around the city for a better response distribution in the city…And they will help us remedy the disparate practices that were a carryover from the time when all of our firefighters were males,” said Gradisar.

Reducing Crime

Mayor Gradisar also highlighted some city wins. The local Pueblo Home Depot gaining recognition on the national corporate level for one of the lowest reported losses from shoplifting compared to other Home Depot stores.

“The corporate office of Home Depot contacted the local store saying, ‘Hey, you guys made a mistake. Your loss numbers don’t even compare to what the other stores are reporting,’…There was no mistake. The shift in loss reporting was due to the proactive work of the DICE teams in the City of Pueblo,” said Gradisar.

He credited this feat to the city’s DICE officers, an acronym for Directed Investigations and Community Engagement, who focus on low-level crimes in the city. Gradisar announced an expansion of this department.

Despite desisting the Home Depot shoplifters, crime is still top of mind.

“To reduce crime, we need more police officers. To encourage applicants we have increased the starting pay for police officers by $500 a month, and we are now allowing officers to transfer from other agencies, and giving them up to five years of experience credit if they come to work for the City of Pueblo,” said Gradisar.

The city is also developing a program to increase property safety for local small businesses. In collaboration with the Pueblo Crime Stoppers and Black Hill Energy, participants will have an opportunity to apply for a free energy audit and lighting assessment. The audit will then provide solutions to improve safety, through exterior lighting and security cameras.

The issue of homelessness

The mayor made a point to emphasize that the scope of criminal justice does not extend to the issue of homelessness.

“Homelessness is a problem in Pueblo…and we won’t solve that problem by making it illegal. It’s a human services problem,” he said.

For 2023, the city has concrete resolutions to make strides on the issue of homelessness. 

  • The city council approved a contract to purchase land for a new homeless shelter, across the street from the city’s current one.
  • The housing and homelessness commission will be reconstituted to provide mental health services for those who need it
  • Starting Jan. 24 there will be new data collection on the homeless population, in order to adequately create solutions

“All of these initiatives will make a difference in our community, none of them will be successful overnight,” Mayor Gradisar concluded, knowing that these plans are ambitious and will take time to complete.