Steamboat Springs City Council OKs base area work | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs City Council OKs base area work

Members approve spending $2.5 million while refinancing negotiations continue

— Redevelopment work at the base of Steamboat Ski Area has a green light to occur this summer.

All seven members of the Steamboat Springs City Council, acting as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, voted Tuesday night to allow $2.5 million in spending for work that can begin as soon as crews are in place. The vote revives construction plans that were stalled last month by a contentious bid process and a default notice from U.S. Bank. That notice put perceptions of the project's financing on shaky ground and spurred a flurry of negotiations between city staff and bank officials. Those negotiations are continuing and could result in a new deal, new lender or refinancing of the city's $17.5 million redevelopment loan. A new financing agreement could release additional funds later this summer for further base area work.

"Based upon the now three different lending institutions we've spoken to … we would have an expectation that certainly we will know very soon about going ahead with the (new) financing," City Manager Jon Roberts said Tuesday.

The decision to move forward with construction brought smiles to the faces of several base area stakeholders, who Tuesday night made their largest public appearance since the construction process faltered.

Lance Thompson, of Timbers Resorts, the developers of One Steamboat Place, cited the "significant investment" their company already has made in snowmelt systems and other public amenities that largely were based, he said, on plans for the public promenade that's an end goal of this summer's work.

Thompson said doubts about that work have factored into discussions at One Steamboat Place.

"We have owners that are about to close, and one of the big questions we get is 'What's the progress?'" he said. "The perception is that what happens tonight will really determine the tone for the next couple of years at the base area."

Chris Diamond, president of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., also supported City Coun­cil's decision.

"We're advancing the ball," Diamond said.

Last month, the city awarded a contract of about $4.5 million to Duckels Construction for work to ultimately build part of a public promenade at the immediate ski base, daylight a segment of Burgess Creek and install other public amenities such as seating areas, fire features and stonework.

U.S. Bank removed default conditions on the loan in a deal reached May 6. The deal allowed the immediate use of $2.5 million, provided that the remainder of this year's funds, also about $2.5 million, be held in a construction account.

With that figure in mind, the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee voted last week to support a $2.2 million construction plan that includes earthwork and utility work but few public amenities. That plan allows for easy transition into further construction as opposed to a $2.4 million plan that would create a more finished product but would require some backtracking and additional costs to continue work at a later date.

City Council did not select either of those plans Tuesday saying simply that work at this point cannot exceed $2.5 million. Roberts said that ruling provides flexibility to finalize this summer's scope of work in coming weeks when the financial situation is clearer.

Redevelopment coordinator Joe Kracum and Derick Duckels, of Duckels Construction, said Tuesday that they can move forward under that ruling because earthwork and utility preparation are the first steps in any scenario.

"They're basically the first couple of months," Kracum said about the various work plans.

Duckels said even without additional funding this summer, he's confident his crews could complete the project next summer if funding becomes available in that time.

Kracum said utility work could begin next week. Duckels said that timeline was a little optimistic because he has to mobilize crews and plans that were at a standstill.

"It's like we're starting from a stop point," he said.

The delay in starting the project did not cause him to lose a significant amount of subcontractors or crews — if any — to other jobs, Duckels said.

"In today's environment, anybody's happy to get any work they can get," Duckels said.

He previously has said that counting subcontractors and other crews, about 200 workers could be involved in base area work this summer.

Standing outside Centennial Hall after City Council's decision, Duckels smiled in relief.

"It's been stressful," he said about the project's contentious past few weeks. "I wouldn't want to do it again."