Mayor Saam Golgoon recently asserted that there is an abundance of good news to report from the Town of Alma these days.
Then he proved as much by itemizing a substantial list of newsworthy items for publication in The Flume.
“We are doing pretty well here in Alma,” Golgoon said. “We have a number of town projects in the works, and the economy is generally good.”
Considering the myriad of financial challenges many municipalities have faced during the viral pandemic, the mayor’s rosy report sounded – well, almost too rosy.
But as more specifics were divulged, it became obvious that Golgoon’s claims were void of flowery exaggeration or hyper-positive media spin. Alma, which enjoys the distinction of being the most elevated incorporated municipality in North America at 10,578 feet above sea level, has in fact remained just above the fray in terms COVID-19-related financial woes.
According to Golgoon, Alma’s thriving economy can be attributed to a variety of factors.
“In 2020, we saw a 168 percent increase in overall sales tax revenue,” Golgoon said. “A lot of people chose to shop online during the pandemic, and, believe it or not, Amazon has actually become our biggest source of sales tax.”
According to Golgoon, Alma enjoyed a slight bump in local tax sales as well in 2020.
While tax revenues from online sales have provided a shot in the arm for the Town’s economy, old fashioned goodwill has also helped to get many local residents over the hump during difficult financial times.
“Like in many mountain communities, the people of Alma take care of their own,” Golgoon said. “Since COVID started, the Al-Mart General Store began a pay-it-forward fund for local residents, and that has really helped. Cory and Karin Kritzmire, owners of the store, deserve a lot of credit for that ... and that’s just one example of how Alma residents have stepped up to help each other during the events of the last year. I could name a lot more.”
From arts and entertainment and outdoor recreation, to the nuts and bolts of public works, the Town of Alma is bustling with local projects.
The Town has just finished construction on a new public works garage, and an open house for that facility is being planned to celebrate its completion. Snow removal and road maintenance equipment was previously housed in a much smaller garage, so the new, more spacious garage is a welcomed addition, according to Golgoon.
One ongoing project, the refurbishment of a building that once housed the Lady’s Aid Society, is especially dear to the mayor’s heart.
“This project has been five years in the making, and eventually there will be a new, attached building that will be part of an new performing arts center here in Alma,” Golgoon said. “We are tweaking the final designs for that facility, and that phase of the project will be completed this summer. That project is especially exciting to me because of how important cultural activities are for all communities.”
Yet another project the mayor referenced pertained to the future development of land adjacent to the Town Hall building. Lifetime Alma resident Jara Johnson’s grant-writing skills were critical in obtaining funding for the Town’s recent acquisition of the land, Galgoon says.
“Jara has done some amazing things for Alma, and her work on the Riverwalk Project is just one more example of how she has given back to the community,” Golgoon said.”
The exact use for the recently acquired land adjacent to the Alma Town Hall is yet to be determined.
Alma’s uniqueness as a community extends well beyond its claim as the highest elevation incorporated town in North America. There are five mountain peaks higher than 14,000 feet that rise above Alma to create a breathtaking skyline in virtually every direction.
Mount Sherman (14,007 feet), Mount Bross (14,172 feet), Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet), Mount Democrat (14,148 feet) and Mount Cameron (14,238 feet) provide a seemingly endless assortment of sightseeing and outdoor recreational activities.
“There were times last summer when we had more than 300 cars parked above town where a network of trails allows access to four of the five 14ers in the immediate area,” Golgoon said. “The challenge is how to control that crowd, and that traffic. We are currently having discussions about a potential shuttle service, as well as other possibilities.”
“Those areas are privately owned areas, and if the crowd is not controlled, then the owners of those areas could simply post no trespassing signs and deny access to the public. We are also considering ways in which the Town might benefit more from those crowds, and want to be proactive and get ahead of these issues.”
Other challenges Alma faces are a shortage of property for the purposes of constructing new housing, and the rapidly rising cost of existing housing resulting from that problem.
Another interesting facet of life as an Alma resident is that commuting to distant locations for work is generally necessary. Golgoon estimates that almost nine of 10 Alma residents work in surrounding communities such as Fairplay, Breckenridge, or even Denver or Colorado Springs.
Golgoon has been an Alma resident for 20 years, has served on the Alma board of trustees for more than a decade and served as mayor pro tem for eight years before being elected mayor in 2018.
Golgoon was also recently named “Outstanding Citizen/Volunteer” for The Flume’s soon-to-be-released People’s Choice-West 2021 edition.
“Winning the People’s Chice award is extremely humbling ... and surprising,” Golgoon said. “I didn’t do anything special. There are many who have done more. Gary Gettlemen and Bob Ensin, for example, are both former mayors and have served on the board of trustees longer than I have. And there are others like our Town Administrator, Nancy Comer, who has been serving the community for decades and just had her twenty-fourth anniversary with the Town of Alma.”
Golgoon concluded with a word of advice about how to institute change and make a difference in our communities.
“Change starts on a micro level first, and then at a macro level. We should start with our own communities, and really get involved in our own communities. That’s how you can make a real difference, and that’s how real change happens.”