Steamboat Springs The Routt County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to pay for the planned justice center by means of a certificate of participation, rather than going to the voters to propose a tax increase.
A certificate of participation is the same as a lease purchase. Though the county ultimately will pay more for the project because of finance charges, which is estimated to cost $11.8 million, the commissioners and several residents gave reasons why they thought this was the best option.
Several in attendance said putting this issue on the ballots in November would not be the best option because voters turned down a tax revenue increase last fall, and because it would alienate voters from the county.
"We voted you in to make the decisions," rancher Jim Stanko said. "You can't have the people deciding between services and taxes all the time."
Interest rates are the lowest they have been in decades, said Commissioner Dan Ellison, and construction companies would be more competitive in their bidding, and with the low cost of a certificate of participation, "it's time to get started," he said.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said choosing the ballot option would not work because "it is a ballot with no constituency," because a portion of the voting population would turn down any new tax, some would turn it down because they don't like the western location of the justice center, and others who don't understand the need for the new facility would turn it down.
Stahoviak said several people have come up to her saying they liked the idea of building the facility in the Curve subdivision, but others have questioned the need for the facility without understanding that the building will house courthouses, probation offices and the District Attorney's Office.
Stahoviak said the bottom line was that the county has a court mandate to have the project completed by September 30, 2006, and she was ready to proceed.
Commissioner Doug Monger agreed with Stahoviak that there is not much of a constituency, and the ballot option probably wouldn't work, calling it "political suicide."
Several in attendance said the cost of the project was still too high, and said they want to keep the cost of the project down.
Noticing that the county planned to put down $7 million for the project from reserves in the internal services fund, Steamboat resident Fred Wolf also asked the commissioners to rethink the amount they would be borrowing.
"Who buys a house and puts 70 percent down?" Wolf asked. "No one."
The Routt County commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday to more specifically discuss the financial details of the justice center plan.