Holly Experiencing Steady Economic Growth

Holly residents have had a busy four years since the spring tornado swept through their town.  Many of the destroyed homes were completely rebuilt or upgraded, along with several businesses and churches.  Most recently, new curbs, gutters and sidewalks along Main Street gave downtown Holly a newer, more prosperous appearance.

Marsha Willhite, Holly Town Administrator, provided The Prowers Journal with an overview of the growth potential that can be realized from several current and future projects.  Willhite said very preliminary work on the school has begun.  Townspeople voted to allocate local funding which opened the door to a BEST grant of over $20 million to renovate the school, a project expected to take almost three years.  Willhite stressed, “In order to have a viable community, you need to have a solid school system that offers long-term support.”  The town will start to notice an influx of contractors and building crews, along with cost analysis staff and utility engineers who will get an estimate on how much the total project will cost.  Plans call for a complete overhaul of the school’s utility lines which will connect to the city’s main lines.  Willhite said, “Everything is going to be brand new.”  The city utility department will also benefit, she said, as, “three to four city blocks with be completely upgraded and the system’s improvement will be at the expense of the BEST project.”

The town owned generator produces 1.7 megawatts and has gotten some needed upgrades.  Willhite said that despite that, the generator cannot produce enough power to satisfy the needs of local customers during the hot, summer months.  Due to recent talks, the 3 megawatt ARPA generator in Holly will come under some local control and oversite which Willhite said, will reduce the level of red tape up and down the chain of command when the town requires power from that unit.  She added that the ARPA generator is powerful enough to supply the town’s needs, and because the new school will use totally new and more efficient electrical & mechanical systems, the power demands from the school are expected to decrease.

CDOT has been in Holly for several months, making improvements to the bridge south of town on highway 89.  SEMA construction has been using landfill from the town’s dumpsite which Willhite says is a win for the community, as they are opening up new areas for future dumping.  A tremendous amount of refuse will be generated once the old school is demolished.  With that in mind, the town board will apply for permitting to allow friable asbestos in the landfill.  Since this interview, the town’s landfill was issued ten deficiencies which must be addressed, and as Willhite said at an earlier town board meeting, those steps will generate a big hit on the town budget.  The administrator said that while CDOT is working on the bridge, the State highway agency has future plans to overhaul the highway 50 overpass between Holly and Granada.  That long term project will also bring workers to the area for an expanded timeline.  She expects some highway 89 construction firms will submit bids for the overpass project.

Lack of adequate housing will be a drawback to future construction and town growth.  In 2005, the town board conducted a needs assessment for housing, utilities and infrastructure, all in the face of potential development from Tri-State G & T.  Although that hasn’t materialized, the findings are still valid.  A second water tower was considered and compatibility studies were conducted.  A look at Holly’s electrical needs for five to seven years out was projected.  Willhite said the town’s wastewater system is adequate for an even larger population now being served.  She mentioned the new Miles Court Motel is already booked through the summer, but some property owners decided against rebuilding rental properties in the aftermath of the tornado.  The workers in these projects will need accommodations for some duration.  The town has a RV park and a privately owned one is available.  The businesswoman who recently purchased L-M Drug on Main Street plans to convert the upstairs space into five or six efficiency apartments, and along those lines, Willhite stated, “This would be a good time for someone to invest in these areas.”    The bottom half of the old store will be renovated into a counter-type sandwich shop and the other portion will be an open grill restaurant, featuring a menu that will reflect the appetites of the area.  JR’s Country Store recently remodeled, adding a Subway sandwich shop.  There are also plans for an expanded grocery store.

Despite these projects, the board won’t describe the anticipated growth as a pie-in-the-sky scenario for interested parties, as the construction projects do have an end date.  “We don’t want to paint our economic picture so brightly that it tends to deceive,” she stated. “Back in 2005 and 2006, we spoke about boom and bust and what could happen, seeking a way to attain a balance to our long range plans.”  Willhite said they will express caution to any interested business developer, and let them know that if they open a business they’ll need to work to find a sustaining clientele after all the construction crews have left.  The administrator said it’s good that people realize that Holly is an agrarian-based community.  There are economic crests and valleys, but because they impact us so slowly compared to the Front Range, we take a more conservative approach to our economic lifestyle, and many farmers and residents alike, tend to hold on to their dollars and keep them in reserve.   “We’re on a more static plane most of the time and that works to our benefit,” Willhite said.

By Russ Baldwin



Filed Under: AgricultureBusinesscommunityEconomyEducationEmploymentEnergyFeaturedHollySchoolUtilities


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