Oak Creek ice rink extension expected

More time needed to finish overlay; town's bookkeeping 'in a quandary'

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— Great Outdoors Colorado hasn't formally given its approval to extend the completion date for improvements to the ice rink in Oak Creek, but town officials are optimistic that it will go through.

Mayor Deb Van Gundy said Monday the request for extension had been filed and Town Clerk Nancy Crawford said the response has been "favorable."

The extension request comes on the heels of problems the town trustees and the Oak Creek Hockey Association have had over the money to pay for a soft surface overlay for the rink. The town has already fronted $64,000 of the $110,000 it will cost to upgrade the rink.

To date, the rink has been enlarged with a new asphalt subsurface, new boards have been constructed around the perimeter, Plexiglas panels have been placed at both ends of the rink, players benches and penalty boxes have been built, and electric lines have been installed under ground.

Great Outdoors Colorado, a government agency that distributes lottery funds for outdoor recreation projects, among others, has agreed to reimburse Oak Creek for $64,000 of the total cost, once the new surface overlay has been completed.

The grant originally stipulated that the work was to be completed last October, but last fall the town applied for and received an extension to June 1.

With the surface still incomplete, the town has applied for a second extension.

The cost of the surface will be $13,000, according to the most recent bid.

But members of the Town Board say they feel the town should not have to pay more than the $5,000 the hockey association said would be the most the town would have to pay for the new surface.

Tim Corrigan, of the Hockey Association, said $8,107 in additional grant money was deposited over the winter into the town's bank account and the project is on budget.

"We did everything we said we would do," Corrigan said.

Corrigan said $2,500 was contributed by Ascent Sports, $2,500 by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., $2,107 by Grand Futures and $1,000 by the American Legion.

With the town's $5,000 commitment, the overlay would nearly be paid for, he said.

Oak Creek to date has issued checks totaling $66,319.90 for the project, according to Corrigan, who has been overseeing the work.

Although the town is currently without a treasurer, former treasurer Lynn Nash, who resigned late last year, said he knows for sure that at least $5,000 was given to the town for the project. He said more had been deposited but he wasn't sure exactly how much.

Nash was the fourth person in six years to resign as Oak Creek's treasurer.

Town Trustee Sonja Norris said she didn't know about the grant money being deposited into the town's account until recently.

"This is the first accounting I've seen," she said. "There was no one watching the budget or the schedule." She said the town's financial bookkeeping is "in a quandary right now."

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who was town treasurer from 1987 to 1993, was hired by the town last month to straighten out the financial books. Because of the high turnover rate in the treasurer's position, financial matters of the town have not been documented very well, she said.

"I left it in what I thought was really good shape," Stahoviak said. She added that a bookkeeping system was in place when she left and it worked well.

"Over the years that just eroded until it was gone," Stahoviak said.

There are records of transactions from 1996 that haven't been filed, she said.

Though it's a big factor in how the money is handled in the town, Stahoviak said that no one can be blamed for the turnover rate. It's a tough job to fill and usually takes someone with a dedication to Oak Creek and good knowledge of accounting.

Either way, the lack of consistency in the position has contributed to some of the money problems Oak Creek has had in the past year.

"It's basically a matter of details falling through the cracks," Jerry Greenwood said.

Greenwood, who was Oak Creek's mayor before Deb Van Gundy, is volunteering to work with the town and the hockey association to try to smooth the issues out and get the work finished on the rink so the terms of GOCo grant can be fulfilled.

For years, the board of trustees felt uncomfortable with financial figures it has been presented, he said.

Despite the town's bookkeeping problems, both the Oak Creek Board of Trustees and the hockey association need to move forward and get the project done, Greenwood said.

"What I'm trying to do is facilitate the understanding that they're on the same team," he said. "There's no reason to point fingers and lay blame."

"We're going to get this situation solved," Corrigan said.

In the end, the ice rink will be a $200,000 asset sitting in Oak Creek that everyone can use, he said.

With issues at hand put aside, Norris said the Oak Creek Hockey Association "did a wonderful job." Corrigan is already looking toward the future for the ice rink and another GOCo grant.

"The next logical step is to build a roof," he said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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