Montrose, CO – City Councilors voted unanimously last week to lease the Brown Center facility to house farm workers during the agricultural season and provide emergency shelter to homeless people during the winter months.
The lease between the city and Tuxedo Corn Company LLC and a sublease agreement between Tuxedo and Montrose Lighthouse Inc. takes effect September. 15. The lease is for three years with the occupants agreeing to pay $590 per month in rent. The lease is set to expire September 15, 2021.
From roughly spring through fall the facility will house migrant farm workers, who are critical to the operations of the Tuxedo Corn Company. Tuxedo Corn is part of a local collaborative of about 19 growers who are constantly looking for ways to hire and house migrant workers, according to Olathe farmer John Harold of the Tuxedo Corn Company.
Councilors voted 5-0 on last Tuesday to approve the lease with strict stipulations about not allowing people to park campers or live in vehicles outside the Brown Center.
Harold told councilors that workers brought to the area on the federal H-2A visa program are critical to the survival of the agricultural industry of the Uncompahgre Valley. Harold said federal rules mandate that a bed must be provided for every worker brought to the area. The collaborative of about 19 growers, Harold explained, was created as a way for growers to work together to get the workers they need.
Leonard Felix of the Olathe Spray Service told councilors Tuesday that without these workers many farmers that dot the Montrose and Olathe countryside would be out of business.
"You take any one of those entries out and you don't have a program here," Felix said. "It's (workers) made the difference for our farmers being able to produce and continue to produce not only vegetable crops but also the other crops they produce to make money and stay in business. I applaud this as a step in the right direction.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Bowman said using places like the Brown Center to house workers is good for the area, especially as emerging markets for industrial hemp are presently being developed.
"I think this is a tremendous, tremendous step in making our community that much better," Bowman said.
In August Chris Hauck of the Montrose Lighthouse Inc. ministry told councilors during a work session that the sublease from the Tuxedo Corn Company to Montrose Lighthouse Inc. would be for the winter months to provide emergency shelter to the homeless population.
Hauck assured the council that those residents would not be permitted to park campers or sleep in the parking lot outside the center.
"No motor homes, no camping, and no erectable structures," he said.
During the winter months, the center's 24 beads would be used to house both men and women who have no other place to stay. Hauck said if the lease were approved, Montrose Lighthouse would begin to prepare the center for homeless residents by November.
The Brown Center was moved from downtown to its current address at 3325 North Townsend Ave. in 2000 to be used as a juvenile detention center for the 7th Judicial District. The building has sat unused in recent years while city staff and members of the public brainstormed ways to utilize the buildings.
The facility sits in between the city's wastewater treatment facility and the Montrose Animal Shelter on the city's north side.
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