Not easy for Mesa Springs Association officers to find their replacements

       The last of its federal money will be gone in March, and now the Mesa Springs Community Association is about to lose its leadership.
       George Gravenstein (president since 2004) and Steve Schwartz (vice president since 2005) said last week they are planning to resign.

George Gravenstein (left) and Steve Schwartz, seven-year president and six-year vice president, respectively, of the Mesa Springs Community Association, stand near the current dead end of Fontanero Street west of the I-25 interchange (background). The association is working with the city on plans for when the street expands to four lanes as part of the Centennial Boulevard extension.
Westside Pioneer photo

       It's not for political reasons. The two retirees are involved in other volunteer activities and, in Gravenstein's case, he's been battling cancer for the past couple of years. “I just can't do it anymore,” he said.
       “I think the organization needs fresh eyes instead of the same people, with the same management styles,” said Schwartz, who's been taking on a greater load than he'd anticipated to help Gravenstein out.
       The association is the city-recognized advocacy group for Mesa Springs, which is located south of Fillmore Street, west of I-25, north of Uintah and east of the mostly open-space area between the older subdivision and Mesa Road.
       The third officer, Steve's wife Marsha, never even sought her position as treasurer. She just helped clean up the association's financial books four years ago, then found there was no volunteer to do it but her.
       “We will mail the entire area [about 500 homes] and tell them the president, vice president and treasurer are going to resign if some people don't step up and take our places,” Gravenstein said. He doesn't mean that as a threat. He and the Schwartzes are more than ready to train replacements, if any materialize.
       The mailing will also announce plans for an association meeting March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Mercy Center, 1440 Cooper St. There, “we'll make another plea,” Gravenstein said.
       The officers haven't made a secret of their desire to step down. They've mentioned it in previous newsletters during the past year - except that now they say they it's definite.
       The question is how much interest exists in the neighborhood. So far, one person has said he might like to be vice president, but that's all. “I guess everyone's decided we're doing a good job,” Grav-enstein said. “They don't want to upset the apple cart.”
       Another ominous sign is that - despite looming issues such as the Centennial Boulevard extension cutting through Mesa Springs at Fontanero Street, a possible 600- unit subdivision just west of the current homes and a planned Chestnut Street realignment at Fillmore Street - the association has only 44 dues-paying members. The cost is $5 a year per household.
       Formerly defined by the city as a Neighborhood Strategy Area (NSA), the older neighborhood, which includes some homes dating back to the early 1900s, had been receiving federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for public improvements (mostly sidewalks) going back to 1986. But in 2008, city officials announced there were greater NSA needs elsewhere. The transitioning began that year, and no more CDBG reimbursements will come after March.
       Gravenstein does see a silver lining on the NSA pull-out, because it means fewer time demands for new officers. During the CDBG heyday, he had to meet regularly with the city's Housing Development liaison, and “there was three times as much to do,” Gravenstein said. Now, he believes, “an older couple could do it [run the association].”
       Typically, the main demands are writing and sending out a one-page newsletter, which is generally timed to announce association meetings, lining up a meeting speaker (usually from the city) and planning the Mesa Springs Association's annual picnic, which in recent years has been in the front yard of George and Carol Gravenstein's duplex.
       But there's always the chance of additional demands, Schwartz noted. The above-noted road and development issues are still in flux, and when something new comes forward, “we [the association officers] are the people the city asks for comments,” he said.
       After the city announced its plan to terminate Mesa Springs as an NSA area, the association found ways to economize. The expiring CDBG funds once covered the rental cost for meetings and mailing out newsletters. So the officers scouted out a no-cost location (the Mercy Center) and turned the newsletter into an all e-mail product for dues-paying members (except for printed copies mailed to about 20 people who don't use computers).
       One of the big contributions the association has made to Mesa Springs is the sound wall along I-25 that went up as part of COSMIX in 2007. “Before that, you couldn't talk to people out in your yard,” said Gravenstein, whose duplex is near the wall. He and Schwartz gave credit to long-time previous president Velma Rogacki for leading that effort.
       A similar leadership crisis existed for the association in '04. The previous president was leaving the area, and there was concern about the association not continuing. In response, Gravenstein stepped forward.

Westside Pioneer article