County starts another workforce housing project in Gunnison

“Folks will be moving in by fall”

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

Gunnison County has started the process for its next affordable housing project in the city of Gunnison, and it will move quickly as it involves regionally-made manufactured homes expected to be delivered as early as March. The Sawtooth housing project will be located near the fairgrounds in Gunnison, and updates and renovations to the fairgrounds have also been planned as a separate but related project. The cost is estimated at $6.1 million, $5 million of which has come from federal funding.

Gunnison County commissioners have signed a contract with Fading West Development based in Buena Vista to complete the 18 factory-built units on two adjacent one-acre parcels at South 14th Street west of the fairgrounds. The project will come in two phases, with the second still being worked out.

The first phase will include 12 three-bedroom units and six one-bedroom unit accessory dwelling units (ADUs). 

The county issued a notice to proceed with Fading West in October and the contractor officially accepted in mid-November. Gunnison County commissioners during their December 6 meeting authorized county manager Matthew Birnie to sign related project contracts on behalf of the board moving forward.  

“We are under contract and in the queue for production to start over the winter,” confirmed Birnie in an e-mail to the Crested Butte News. He said the placement of the units will commence in the spring, with site work beginning this winter. 

Along with the Sawtooth phase one plans, Birnie said the county staff has worked with staff at the fairgrounds and user groups as well as Cattleman’s Days to create a plan to more efficiently use the space on the fairgrounds. 

“Part of that included moving that quonset hut and building some new stalls. We’re under contract for that stall work,” said Birnie.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner chairperson Jonathan Houck stated that the project, which has been in a planning phase for many months, represents an “Immense amount of work that has gone into it using our federal funds.” 

The funds have come largely from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Birnie said it was a reflection of the county’s strong budget and strategic planning which is initiated by commissioners on an annual basis for both five year and 10 year goals. “When the opportunity comes along we can go after it,” he said of projects that may have been planned, sometimes years in advance, but did not yet have funding. “In this case it wasn’t a tremendous amount of time, but again, we had plans in place ready to go. So then the funding can really be fuel to propel us but we’re not saying oh gee, now we have money—what should we do with it? We know what you want, and we have plans to get there and then the money can help us achieve that,” he said to commissioners on Tuesday.

Commissioners also discussed with the community and economic development department that more opportunities are coming up for pursuing significant housing funds.

Assistant county manager for community and economic development Cathie Pagano listed a couple grants that the county is working on with application deadlines coming quickly, including one federal and one state opportunity related to legislation that passed last year. “There’s over $100 million allocated, and $70 million is specifically allocated to rural communities,” she said. 

As for Sawtooth, Birnie said folks should be moving in by the fall of 2023.

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