Pueblo mayor’s State of the City address covers public safety, roads and community investment

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar speaks ahead of President Joe Biden at CS Wind in Pueblo, Nov. 29, 2023.

Improving public safety is a critical issue for Pueblo, according to Mayor Nick Gradisar. He spoke about the city’s ongoing efforts to fight crime during his annual State of the City address Friday morning.

“We have our problems with crime like every other city in America,” he said. “The residents of Pueblo deserve to not only feel safe in their neighborhoods, but they deserve to be safe.”

Gradisar said community engagement officers, mental health crisis outreach staff and more patrol officers helped reduce serious crimes by 13 percent last year.

However, despite pay increases, retention bonuses and other efforts to increase officer morale – including letting them have beards and wear shorts in the summer and shirts with sleeves that reveal tattoos – officers have continued to leave, Gradisar said.

“We've hired more than 70 new police officers during my term in office, [but] our police department is still short of officers,” he said.

Pueblo’s Directed Investigations and Community Engagement Team, known as DICE, helps respond to low-level crimes. In 2023, the team conducted 4,609 citizen contacts, issued 823 citations, recovered 25 stolen motor vehicles and made more than 650 warrant arrests, according to the city.

“It may seem like nothing is being done about crime,” Gradisar said. “The reality is different. In 2023, we doubled the number of drug arrests in the city of Pueblo.” 

Gradisar said the city also is creating a $2 million Real Time Crime Center to “take advantage of technology” and assist officers. 

“We'll utilize civilian staff to begin investigating crimes almost as soon as they occur,” he said. “If there are cameras or license plate readers in the area of the call, the staff manning the Real Time Crime Center will begin investigating as soon as the call comes into the dispatch center.”

The mayor also spoke about a new financial counseling center, city-wide clean-up projects and the new Pueblo Rescue Mission warming shelter, as well as three new fire stations that will be built. Gradisar said code enforcement and other measures have been a focus.

Improvements at the Pueblo airport are in the works, the mayor said, but he has concerns about the flights provided by Southern Airways Express due to nationwide pilot shortages and an aging fleet. He stated his commitment to work with airline executives on maintaining service.

When it came to economic issues, Gradisar cited potential new jobs coming to CS Wind, Foamcore and Evraz, as well as the renovation and opening of the Fuel and Iron Food Hall in the historic Holmes Hardware building. He spent time talking generally about development projects and the continuing demand for housing in Pueblo.

Additionally, he noted the work done by the city’s parks, roads and transit staff and various community collaborations.

He also responded to a recent report recommending a new nuclear facility when the coal-fired Comanche Power Plant closes in seven years. Gradisar said the community’s goal should be to replace the lost jobs and property taxes before then.

“The decision to place a nuclear power plant in the city of Pueblo can be a choice for the city of Pueblo and not a desperate decision for economic survival,” he said.

Gradisar reminded people that electricity from the Comanche plant goes north to the metro area and does not power Pueblo itself. He said the city is in the process of hiring a coordinator to lead a local transition study committee and that that position is funded with a state grant.