Hayden Residents of west Routt County seem equally divided about the proposed recreation center in Hayden; only a November vote will reveal which side will prevail.
At a public hearing hosted by the Routt County Board of Commissioners last Wednesday to review a proposed recreation center service plan, the board was basically asking three questions: whether or not there is a need for the service; whether the proposed plan will sufficiently fulfill the need if it exists; and whether the proposal is economically reasonable, feasible and equitable.
This week, the commissioners unanimously approved the service plan, clearing its next step toward the November ballot.
The service plan, authored by several proponents of the rec center, details costs, amenities and programs associated with the proposed recreation center.
Residents who are not in favor of the proposal are rejecting it for a variety of reasons the strongest and first among them relate to the town's finances.
Although proponents of the rec center emphasized that all the projected costs are based on worst-case scenarios, many residents were uncomfortable with the roughness of the estimated costs.
If the proposal passes, the residential property tax increase has been estimated at $132.86, but that figure was determined based on the total assessed property value of west Routt, and not all of that land would be taxed to support the rec district.
West Routt's total assessed value is $70,092,210. That number includes agricultural parcels of land that will eventually be excluded from the district because owners of 40-plus acres of agricultural land will not pay the new property taxes. Without that land helping to foot the recreational bill, all the projected tax increases in the service plan will actually end up being a bit higher for those who do pay them.
Financial consultant Joe Drew explained that without the agricultural land included in the total assessed value of the district, the rough tax estimates would increase by about 5 percent.
With an estimated 7 percent interest, a $5 million construction bond would end up totaling about $7 million over the course of 20 to 25 years. Drew said that a 7 percent interest rate is very liberal, and that interest rates may not be that high when bonds are issued.
Because the rec district itself has not yet been formed, the committee can't apply for Great Outdoors Colorado grants or funding from other private sources. Proponents are confident that if the rec district is formed, grants will be available, making the total construction bond a bit smaller.
Some residents don't like the idea of a recreation center taking priority over other needs in the town.
"Consider the needs of the town (in reviewing the service plan)," resident Don Johnson told the county commissioners. "Because of the town's infrastructure problems, we're always discouraging developers. We have water problems. These things will have to be dealt with. So we're not only looking at this mill levy increase, but somewhere down the line we're looking at another mill levy increase for our infrastructure."
Business owners found it particularly upsetting that they could end up paying increased commercial and residential property taxes, if the rec district is formed and the construction and operating mill levies approved.
Proponents of the rec center agreed that if Hayden is already paying higher taxes than Steamboat, then the town deserves to have the same amenities.
"In terms of what taxpayers and residents moving to a town want, this community is inadequate," said Mark Fischer said.
"Whether we like it or not, Hayden is a bedroom community for Steamboat," elementary school principal Mike Luppes said. "Something like this would bring people to Hayden to stay."