Our View: The Bella's Market mess; sheriff gobbles up downtown parking

We were glad to see Wellington Mayor Jack Brinkhoff standing up for the town during an interview on Denver’s 7News. The TV station was in town last week covering the Bella’s Market “scandal” — empty shelves at the local grocery that’s owned by Sam Mancini.

The mayor said in the 7News piece that “ ‘If somebody would come in there and run a market right, this town would support it, I know they would,’ said Brinkhoff, who has been blasted for encouraging people to shop local because of what’s happening at Bella’s. ‘I understand their frustration.’ ”

We’re not sure what 7News meant by saying the mayor was “blasted for encouraging people to shop local because of what’s happening at Bella’s,” but we’ve seen lots of 7News-style helicopter journalism during our long career in the profession. Denver journalists and news stations parachute in to cover a tragedy or produce a hard-hitting hidden-camera expose, then disappear when the good things in town are going on — like Cub Scout fundraisers, the Fourth of July parade and the Farmers Market.

Even with the mayor’s and the town’s collective anger so apparent, the town was quick to renew Sam Mancini’s liquor license at the Sept. 22 trustees meeting. C’mon, at least express some displeasure with the lack of groceries on Bella’s shelves by “losing” the liquor license paperwork for a few weeks.

Q. So, what’s to be done with Bellas?

A. Recruit a larger grocery store such as King Soopers or Sprouts. Except that grocery retailers won’t build on the promise of new rooftops, only on the actual number. And Wellington isn’t close to having the number of rooftops needed — about 10,000 residents within a half-mile radius of a store, according to retail analyst David Livingston. Even with enough available customers, no large retailer is doing anything here unless the I-25 overpass at Highway 1 is enlarged.

A. Somehow force Mancini to sell the store. Town government could designate an urban renewal zone, then exercise eminent domain, which would force Bella’s and the two other businesses in the same building to move. It’s a lengthy process that would include a blight study and a plan for how the neighborhood would be redeveloped and who would pay for it. But just talking about it could lead Mancini to simply shutter the store while retaining ownership, which is the worst-case scenario. And it’s unlikely that Larimer County, who gave Mancini property tax incentives to keep the store open after Nebraska-based Panhandle Cooperative left town, will repeat its generosity for a replacement tenant.

A. Continue to shop at Bella’s and hope for the best. Frustrating for sure. But as we’ve advocated before on this page, nothing big happens without something small happening.

Speaking of shopping local, the town of Wellington recently remodeled the former Treasures storefront at Cleveland and 3rd. They’ve converted it to offices and are calling it a “town hall annex.” The rent is being shared with the chief tenant of the annex, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

As part of the annex acquisition, LCSO engineered the hostile takeover of a half-block of public parking on 3rd Street for the sheriff’s two patrol vehicles, delineated by enough red paint to keep Sherwin-Williams in the black for several months. A disrespectful act on the part of a sheriff’s department trying to promote its small-town camaraderie and sensitivity in an area of town that’s struggling to survive. And did we mention the fact the annex has two parking spaces behind it? But more on that in editorials to come.

As part of that annex remodel, town hall secured a proposal from Sturgeon Electric, headquartered in Chicago, and hired them to run a buried optic fiber line from the “real” town hall a few hundred feet to the annex. Sturgeon electricians also helped town workers in remodeling the annex, evidenced by the Sturgeon trucks parked there for several days.

Our friend John Voytko, an electrical contractor who owns Gray Rak Electric here in town, belongs to the chamber of commerce and even helped support the Main Streets Program by sponsoring a light pole banner on Cleveland Avenue. He’s also done a lot of work for us — you’ll find no one more professional or knowledgeable (and we’ve done a lot of residential and commercial remodeling over the years).

We asked John if the town’s ever contacted him about doing electrical work, such as running fiber optic cables or helping with running electrical circuits for a town office or building. He said “No.”

So we have to ask why a perfectly capable and knowledgeable local electrician wasn’t hired for the annex work? Even if John’s expertise isn’t fiber optics, maybe the town could contract him to oversee the job, then ask him to subcontract the specialized work.

Goes to show that sometimes when a local business doesn’t have everything a shopper wants and the name brand looks more attractive, the problem could be the shopper and not the retailer.

Feel free to stop by the WW offices at 3745 Cleveland and chat — the coffee pot is always “on” and my door’s always open (primarily because there’s no door on my office.)

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