Steamboat Springs An $85,000 slash to the city snow removal budget won't be felt until this winter, but City Council members are gearing up for the complaints already.
"This will be the No. 1 item that residents will comment on and complain about," Council President Kathy Connell said.
As all city departments made 2 percent cuts to their budgets, the public works department reduced its funding by cutting back on snow removal, summer paving and drainage maintenance.
The cuts would mean not removing snow piles on the sides of Lincoln Avenue after every snowstorm, but doing snow removal every two to three weeks. Since 1998, the city has been removing the snow from Steamboat's main street right after it is plowed, and that costs the city about $85,000 a year, City Manager Paul Hughes said.
"This does not mean 8-foot snowdrifts on Lincoln Avenue," Hughes said. "It's $85,000 extra a year and what we have decided to do is to do it less often and try to take some of those savings."
The 2003 city budget, which went before the council during Tuesday's budget retreat, was a 2.1 percent drop from last year and proposed to spend $20,497,075. By the end of Tuesday's eight-hour meeting, the council had added $17,846 to accommodate its community support funding.
Although cuts were made to the number of city employees, parks and trail maintenance and employee perks, the council was not ready to slash the city's bus service.
Despite the $43,000 the city would save by reducing the bus line's morning and evening hours, council said it did not want to see a drop in funding.
"This is something where I would like to see no cut at all. I used that bus. A lot of people have contacted me who use this (service) and it is not just Ski Corp. employees, it is businesses and restaurants," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "When you look at the late-night service, this is something I feel our city owes to our citizens. I don't even want to think about increasing DUIs and putting at risk the health and safety of our citizens."
The budget that was proposed to the council had buses running one hour later in the morning and ending two hours earlier in the evening for the winter season. In the summer and shoulder seasons, buses were proposed to stop two hours earlier.
City Transportation Director George Krawzoff said the cut would have the largest impact on those leaving ski area bars between 1:30 and 2 a.m. With 1.9 million riders last year, he said the late-night crowd counted for 3 percent of its total passenger volume.
He said the day's first hour accounted for .3 percent of the bus system's passenger load and most of those riders get on at the condo area and ride to the ski base or downtown.
The council agreed to take $40,000 from the capital improvement budget that was earmarked for lane striping on roads and put that money toward transportation.
While the transportation budget stayed in tack, the council did decide to boost revenue by charging user fees for city fields used by schools, youth soccer and Little League. It also agreed to charge groups and nonprofits for the city's costs of opening Centennial Hall for night meetings and using the Mesa Schoolhouse in the winter.
Overall, the city cut back 8.4 full-time positions and took out employee perks by cutting the Christmas party fund in half to around $4,000 and slashing Ski Corp. ski medallions from different department budgets.