City Council harpoons 'White Whale'

Steamboat Springs to buy new bus


— As if in one last act of defiance against the city, a Parks and Recreation bus called the "white whale" broke down on the way to pick up students Tuesday just hours before City Council agreed to send it out to sea for good.

In the first recalculation of the city's 2001 budget, the city found it had enough money from sales- tax revenue and other sources to spend $102,000 on a new bus. Because the city traditionally budgets conservatively and often underspends, it ends up at least twice during the year reviewing requests it initially may have had to cut.

"We have such a large budget that it's not possible to anticipate every need," said City Manager Paul Hughes.

Hughes related his most recent experience with the bus to a council member who was unfamiliar with the vehicle.

"It's the white whale," Hughes said. "The day that I saw it a week ago it had stalled three times on the way over. It's held together with gum and baling wire."

The city spent money on items from planning consultant fees to a new police intoxilyzer in the omnibus ordinance.

This particular expenditure was much-needed, said Jennifer Rose, the youth program coordinator for the city's Parks and Recreation department. Rose said she uses the bus to transport children to and from activities.

"It's an old bus. It's time to replace it," she said.

The radiator hose on the 1974 bus "busted" Tuesday afternoon in what has become a regular occurence for the massive white vehicle, said Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson. The bus has been causing the city constant problems for the last few years, Wilson said.

Wilson said the city's transit fleet is the only factor that has stood between the white whale and Captain Ahab's harpoon up until now.

Despite the increases in revenue that allowed the city to draft the omnibus ordinance, the city will still have to go into its reserves to fund the entire list of requests and financial needs.

The city, in fact, is dipping into reserves to the tune of $214,362, which Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau said is not an unusual occurence during omnibus ordinances. Litzau said the city actually has $3,858,478 in discretionary reserves, though his figures will not be final until the city finishes its 2000 audit.

Because council approved the ordinance on first reading it will need to review it again before it is approved.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail


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