Building a strong post-pandemic community and economy are critical priorities for Pueblo, according to Mayor Nick Gradisar. Gradisar outlined plans to jumpstart recovery in his second annual State of the City address today.
Among his priorities for 2021 are continuing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, sustaining economic vibrance and improving infrastructure.
A variety of housing options can play a role in economic and community development, he said, and the city should aim to attract new residents who want to work remotely due the pandemic.
“We need to position Pueblo to take advantage of these opportunities,” Gradisar said. “These won’t be large job announcements, but they will steadily increase our population with educated people and good careers.”
The city provided millions of dollars in support to 619 small businesses last year, according to Gradisar, with about $400,000 going toward outdoor dining amenities at bars and restaurants.
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He said those improvements will create a new outdoor dining culture that will outlive the pandemic, assuring local businesses that the city will continue to recognize those that have taken appropriate pandemic precautions.
Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment has reported more than 13,000 positive and probable cases of COVID-19 and 329 deaths in the county since the pandemic began.
He credits the city’s support of small businesses and federal stimulus money with keeping sales tax revenues stable through last year. Plans to replace Pueblo’s outdated fire stations are in the works, according to Gradisar. He also mentioned a new sales tax ballot issue that would replace the current water user fee for the street repair utility enterprise.
Gradisar said despite last year’s event cancellations and political differences, Puebloans came together as a united city to sacrifice and save livelihoods.
“As we reflect on the State of the City, we should remember that we control our destinies and Pueblo has always been in it for the long haul,” Gradisar said.
He also highlighted a number of projects already in place to support individuals and families in need, such as The Pueblo Food Project, affordable housing projects and a financial empowerment program.
“Not only does Pueblo have a proud history, it has a bright future,” Gradisar said.