City struggles with funding

July 4 extravaganza pressing topic for council

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— What seemed like small monetary requests made the members of City Council think hard about what they do with the city's money Tuesday night.

Requests from the city and the private sector for funding for July 4 fireworks met with a very different response than a request from Habitat for Humanity's chairman of the board

The city was requesting more funds for its annual July 4 fireworks extravaganza, after council decided at its budget retreat in October to drop the requested grant from $15,000 to $10,000. Council had funded the fireworks at $15,000 since 1998. Council members struggled with the fireworks funding, which was alternately considered a community staple and a gravy item. First National Bank, led by Tim Borden, was willing to match council's allocation, but after a good deal of debate, the city was unwilling to come to the table.

"It's not a popular decision but somewhere we have to tighten our belts," said Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner.

Councilman Bud Romberg also felt the fireworks display was not a pressing need and, with all of the other cuts the city had to make in community support this year, he did not feel it was justified to reverse the decision.

Habitat for Humanity's proposal to start building an affordable house with volunteer labor in May, however, was too good an opportunity to pass up, said some council members. Although the group will only be building one house in Pioneer Village, the fact that they were ready to actually get some nails into wood as soon as next month impressed council. This first house is also just the beginning, said Larry Oman, the president of the board of directors for Habitat.

"These folks are out making it happen," said Council President Kevin Bennett.

Council decided to grant the group its request for $10,000.

Oman said he was delighted with council's decision, which will allow him and some of the estimated 150 local Habitat volunteers to begin work. Because the cost of land in Steamboat is so high, affordable housing groups need a lot of help to put a project together, he said. Habitat actually paid $60,000 for the lot in Pioneer Village, he said.

"We never wanted to pay that kind of amount," Oman said. "That was the least expensive land close to Steamboat we could find."

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