John Scarffe, Black Hawk. The Black Hawk City Council passed an ordinance calling for a Special Election during a regular meeting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 9, 2017, at 211 Church Street. Before the meeting the Council toured Chase Gulch and the Maryland Mountain area.
The Ordinance calls a November 7, 2017, Special Election to be conducted as an independent polling place. It also submits a ballot question and sets the ballot title. Ballot question no. 1 – Device Tax on Live Games asks if Black Hawk taxes should be increased $700,000 annually in 2018, and by whatever additional amounts are collected annually in subsequent years, by the creation of a new category of occupational tax to be calculated at four times the occupational tax otherwise levied upon gaming devices.
The tax will be levied annually per table on games such as poker, black jack, craps and roulette, when such games are conducted by live dealers. The proceeds will be used for general governmental purposes, the ballot question states.
The ballot question also asks if the city can collect and spend the full proceeds of the tax without limitation and without limiting the expenditure of any other revenues or funds.
City Attorney Corey Hoffmann said that at the last meeting, the Council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Gilpin County. Other than the County coordinating notices, this would be an independent polling place.
Mayor David Spellman said the Council originally talked about five times the existing amount instead of four times. Alderman Paul Bennett said the Council determined that five times was reasonable, because the casinos have five gaming stations.
The casinos stated that, when one table has four or more players, the casino opens another table, so four times the amount is reasonable. The tax is based on the fact that the Black Hawk Business Improvement District and marketing program of the City must remain in place.
Spellman said the tax increase has been contemplated since a year ago due to live gaming in the casinos. The number of slot machines has dropped considerably since 2007 after craps and roulette started, and those games take up more space.
The City is giving the casinos a decent consideration by only going to four times the amount, Spellman said. The City has never taken an aggressive tax position, and this is a reasonable tax The City needs to fund the Marilyn Mountain Open Space and a new conference center.
Between 2008 and 2015, the only increase in revenue has been in table games — a 300 percent increase, and that is current, Spellman said. The tax comes out to $11.50 per day, an increase of $8.62 per day.
“It doesn’t seem that substantial,” Spellman said. “It’s a reinvestment in the town of Black Hawk.” The Council approved the ordinance.
Before the meeting, the Aldermen met at 1 p.m. for a tour of Chase Gulch, Maryland Mountain and Quartz Valley. The area encompasses 600 acres, Spellman said. Half of the area came from the Bureau of Land Management through a trade for ranch property Black Hawk purchased in Fremont County.
Chase Street in north Black Hawk turns into a single-lane road up the gulch. That entrance to the open space will be restricted to Black Hawk residents only. For the public, the Hidden Treasure Trailhead will begin on the east side of Highway 119 on the north side of the City, where a bridge will cross the highway.
The Chase Gulch road follows the old Gilpin Tramway up the gulch. The narrow gauge railroad served several of the mines in the area, winding up the gulch and then over to Nevadaville, Russell Gulch, Central City and Black Hawk.
Remnants of the old Cherry Valley Bed & Breakfast, which burned out, will be demolished, except the garage, Spellman said. A little farther up, the Bonanza and Union Mining Company was a huge operation in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
The Bonanza was not served by the Gilpin Tramway, so it had its own mill, and wagons would be used going down Chase Gulch. It included living quarters, and a popular spot for workers was the nearby Chase Gulch Brewery.
A stone structure still standing was the site of the Belton Mill, but it never actually became a mill. The tramway ran in front of the prominent, natural rock point called Castle Rock, crossed the gulch and went over Winnebago Hill.
The group stopped at the top of the gulch across from Castle Rock. A brickyard for Black Hawk was on the site, and it was owned by John Atkinson, who was on the Black Hawk Council in the past.
On west down the road, below the Queen’s Chair rock formation, will be the site for a new dam, Spellman said. It’s the best area to build a dam, and it will take on life around it. The road then passed the Mac Rock Road intersection and entered the main street of Central City at G Street.
One of the purposes of the tour was to look at the work Mike Schaller and the Public Works crew did cleaning up the area. Although they left historical and prominent landmarks and machinery, they cleaned up tons of junk on the mountain.
A full crew worked for three weeks, Schaller said. They started out tearing down trailers and the remnants of houses and outhouses. They pulled out old cars, a pickup, 55-gallon drums and a bunch of tires by the creek. Three years before they had hauled out tons of tires.
Then the crew walked the area to pick up smaller pieces. They recycled four dumpsters of steel. “Mike and Company did a heck of a job cleaning up,” Spellman said.
(Originally published in the August 17, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)