When Ben and Erin Napier arrived in Fort Morgan, Colorado with fellow HGTV power couple Dave and Jenny Marrs to surprise residents with the news they’d be teaming up to renovate the small town for season 2 of “Home Town Takeover,” it seemed like the perfect location for the show. Main Street was packed with cheering townspeople, from the high school football team to local shop owners.
But now that filming has begun in the town of 11,000, major drama has unfolded among city leaders — from an investigation of the mayor to City Council members debating the value of HGTV’s presence in the town.
City Council Members Question Cost of HGTV Projects
The premise of “Home Town Takeover” is that HGTV’s hosts and production crews swoop into a small town that’s in desperate need of revitalization. Over several months in Fort Morgan, they’ll work with residents and local companies to refurbish businesses, homes, and public spaces while filming the transformations for a six-episode series to air in 2023.
The Napiers’ first “Takeover” took place in Wetumpka, Alabama, airing on HGTV in the spring of 2021. That November, Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis told the Montgomery Advertiser that he was thrilled with the outcome, saying, “We still have people visiting Wetumpka based on what they saw on the show.”
In Fort Morgan, however, some of the excitement has been overshadowed by small-town drama. For starters, leaders and community members have questioned Mayor Lyn Deal about unexpected fees and a lack of communication about the 18 renovation projects planned or already underway around the town.
According to an August 24 article in The Fort Morgan Times, which obtained financial information via an open records request, the city had already spent nearly $49,000 on fee waivers, grant funding, staff time, and road maintenance less than four weeks after HGTV came to town.
Mayor Deal, who’s already filmed segments for the show, believes the town will recoup its investments once the show airs, generating tourism dollars from “Home Town” viewers interested in visiting Fort Morgan. But several City Council members have expressed concern.
“I think HGTV being here is a good thing for the town and the community, but waiving these fees and taxes is kind of a slippery slope,” Councilman Brian Urdiales said during an August Council meeting, questioning how they would handle similar requests by other contractors in the future.
The City Council eventually approved waiving building permit fees while declining HGTV’s request to waive the use tax on materials purchased outside the town for use in its projects. The Fort Morgan Times reported many costs to the city still hadn’t been accounted for, including the use of Fort Morgan’s police and parks staff.
Community members and leaders have also expressed frustration over the lack of communication from the mayor and the network about what’s going on with various projects. City Councilman Doug Schossow said he signed a non-disclosure agreement with HGTV early in the process but has never received any information. The publisher of the local paper, Brian Porter, also wrote that he has received no communication from HGTV representatives despite repeated requests for details on local projects.
Mayor Deal, who’s been heavily involved with producers and film crews, has given small glimpses of what’s to come, including hinting at a “spectacular” upgrade to the memorial park devoted to Big Band leader Glenn Miller, who was the town’s most famous resident.
Mayor Formally Reprimanded By City Council
In the midst of debates over the costs and communication associated with HGTV’s presence in Fort Morgan, another drama has been unfolding behind the scenes. Mayor Deal — who took office in early 2022 — was formally reprimanded by the City Council on September 6, over her improper dealings with a city employee.
Mere weeks before the Napiers and Marrs made their big announcement in the town, then-City Manager Steve Glammayer accused the mayor of violating the City Charter and creating a toxic work environment, according to The Fort Morgan Times, putting pressure on a city worker to do specific work, and making disparaging comments about Glammayer.
A $20,000 private investigation into the matter created major drama in the town, as Glammayer quit and rumors flew. Former Mayor Jack Darnell accused city leaders of being a “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” potentially giving Deal a hard time as Fort Morgan’s first female mayor.
In Deal’s testimony during the September 6 Council meeting, she said it was clear Glammayer had many issues with her that she’d not been aware of, resulting in his complaints six months into her tenure as mayor.
“It was an unbelievable and shocking experience to listen to his angry personal attacks, accusing me of disparaging him to an employee and breaking the charter.” I was blindsided by his level of suppressed anger,” she said. “This was his planned exit strategy for his type of retaliation before moving out of town.”
Mayor Deal said she never complained about Glammayer to an employee or City Council member, and the investigation didn’t find evidence of her doing so. Investigators did find that she called an unnamed city worker to inquire about the lack of landscaping around the town’s historic Rainbow Bridge, which made the employee feel pressured to perform work that wasn’t budgeted for. Deal said she had said she wasn’t calling as the mayor — just a concerned citizen — and volunteered to help. But City Councilman Clint Anderson said she’s always the mayor.
“We don’t get to take that hat off,” he said. “We don’t get to take off the City Council hat, the mayor hat. When we’re an elected official, we’re always an elected official.”
Deal said that she had not realized her interaction with the employee was a violation, but that she’d learned her lesson. The Council opted unanimously to approve a motion in which it verbally reprimanded the mayor rather than censure or apply punitive damages.
After their decision, Mayor Deal presented a “surprise” for the council members and residents who had gathered for the meeting. In a slide show, she shared photos of progress being made by HGTV to redo the landscaping and signage around the Rainbow Bridge and requested that the Council make sure to provide funding in the future to maintain the work being done there.