Steamboat City Council halts bicycle funding application | SteamboatToday.com

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Steamboat City Council halts bicycle funding application

Members opt to wait a year to ask for state money

— The Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday night against applying to receive future Colorado sales tax revenues in excess of $21.3 million through a state program for bike-related projects, instead opting to support an application submission next year.

Council members expressed three primary concerns about the application that, if approved, would have provided tax-increment financing to pay back the city for $8.5 million in projects designed to further Steamboat's goal to become a biking hub. Because the projects would be paid back through future state sales tax revenues, the city would issue bonds to fund them, which were estimated to cost up to $12.8 million.

Several City Council members were concerned the city would have to provide a "moral obligation" on the bonds to issue them, meaning it would have to repay the bonds if future tax revenues weren't sufficient. And because the amount of tax-increment financing the state will allocate will be based on tax revenues from March 2011 through February 2012, it's difficult to project exactly how much will be available.

City Council members Meg Bentley and Jon Quinn also weren't sure whether more than $3.3 million in proposed improvements to make Yampa Street a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly "entertainment hub" were appropriate. Quinn suggested that a business improvement district, in which tax revenues generated in a specific district would fund improvements, might be a better fit for Yampa Street.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski and council member Kenny Reisman were most concerned about not having annual maintenance and operation costs of the projects, which also included creating bicycle attractions, improving infrastructure and other amenities, and enhancing safety.

"I don't think we can submit this without that number," Reisman said. "I don't think we can approve this without that number because it puts us at too much annual risk without it."

The City Council voted 5-2 against supporting the application. Only Bentley and Scott Myller supported it.

The Colorado Regional Tourism Act created the program, which is slated to provide $50 million to two statewide projects a year for three years. The state's Economic Development Commission will consider the applications, which are due June 30. Projects won't be approved until March 2012.

Steamboat Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said Steamboat could be better prepared to apply for the tax-increment financing if it waits to see how the state reacts to this year's applications.

"This is the first time they've done the program," she said. "We have nothing to look at to find out what particular things they are focused on or interested in. We are going in blind as is everybody else. So being able to look at the successful winning proposals will be helpful in terms of us determining how to put together a winning proposal."

But DelliQuadri reminded the City Council that only $50 million was earmarked for the program and that if it was all dedicated this year, Steamboat wouldn't have a chance to reapply.

It was a risk council members were willing to take.

"I know there's probably a lot of disappointment that we've waited an extra year, but I've got to think we only look better as a proposal if we really fine tune it," Hermacinski said.

Council members directed DelliQuadri to work with a group they unanimously approved to serve as a Regional Tourism Zone Board to redraft the application for next year.

In other action, the City Council approved $67,740 in projects proposed by the Bike Town USA Initiative, including $18,040 for striping and signage for the Safe Routes to School program, $45,000 for wayfinding signage and $4,700 for safety education and community awareness efforts.

Council members unanimously supported the Safe Routes to School portion. Funding will come from the City Council's $35,000 contingency fund.

Hermacinski and council members Bart Kounovsky and Walter Magill opposed the wayfinding signage and funding for safety education and awareness. The $49,700 for those projects will be paid through excess sales tax revenues the city expects to collect soon.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com