Council doesn't budge on decision

City decides not to accept Rotary pledge to help fund Emerald City

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— The City Council stood behind its decision to deny lease funding to Emerald City Tuesday night even after receiving a challenge from a community group intent on saving the facility.

The council decided not to accept a challenge from the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club on Tuesday after the rotary's president pledged the club would make up the difference if the city was willing to fund the lease on the youth center at the same level it paid this year $30,000.

The city initially decided not to fund the center on 11th Street in 2002 because of a projected increase in the lease rate of almost 300 percent, though it still would not approve funding after the landlord decided to lower the rate to half of his initial offer.

Rotary Board President Mike Roberts made a strong statement to the council about his disappointment with the city, reading from a letter he said summarized the feelings of many rotary members. Roberts felt the city had not done its part to maintain youth programs at the same level it has in the past. He criticized other fiscal decisions made by the city, including allocating money to improvements at the Stockbridge Multi-Modal Center and spending money on landscaping.

"We know times are tight, but your decision would appear to reflect an inappropriately low concern and priority for youth programs in the community," Roberts said.

Council members lamented the possible loss of the facility, but said budget cuts were necessary.

"This is a very worthwhile project," Councilman Bud Romberg said. "But there were a lot of other worthwhile projects that were cut."

Although the council decided against funding the lease on the facility through next August, it agreed to attempt to get the money from community groups and keep the facility open until the money runs out, which may not happen for at least a few months.

The city will still be paying for programs and most personnel for youth after-school activities, but they may be held at a number of spots throughout the city until after August, when the city could host the programs in the modulars next to the newly renovated Howelsen Ice Arena.

The city will also help form an ad hoc committee to examine what can be done for youth programs over the short and long terms. Councilman Loui Antonucci, who gave $900 from his campaign fund to the youth center, will be a part of that committee, as will members of rotary and other foundations.

So far, the city has $10,200 in pledges, which came from a number of groups and individuals, including Antonucci, the Human Resource Coalition, Grand Futures and the Steamboat Board of Realtors.

The Rotary Club, Routt County United Way and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation will all be considering grants for the center in upcoming weeks, said Chris Wilson, the director of the city's parks and recreation department.

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