Steamboat Springs The two most important government entities in the town of Hayden -- the Board of Trustees and the Board of Education -- are embroiled in a dispute in which there is only one loser: the taxpayers they both represent.
At the heart of the dispute is a small piece of land, barely more than an acre, at the intersection of Breeze Basin Boulevard, Third Street and Poplar Street in Hayden. The school district owns the land and the Town Board wants to acquire it in order to realign a dangerous intersection between the three roads. Both entities agree improving the intersection is important to improve safety for motorists and the children who regularly cross it going to and from Hayden Valley Elementary. The town even has received an Energy Impact grant worth nearly $240,000 to help with the project -- but the grant contract stipulates the project must be completed by Nov. 30.
Despite the importance of getting the job done, and despite a funding deadline that continues to creep closer, the two boards cannot agree on how to make it happen. The School Board wants a land swap that will give it enough room to build a regulation-size track and a grass playing field behind the high school. The Town Board would prefer to buy the land outright, at a price as close to a 2001 appraisal of $50,000 as possible.
Lawsuits have been mentioned, and at Thursday's Hayden Town Board meeting, a parade of student athletes and parents came before trustees to plead for a track to be included in the town's plans for a new community park. It was an event that fit so perfectly with the School Board's argument it seemed almost orchestrated.
Mayor Chuck Grobe's response to his young constituents was that the town and School Board need to resolve the land-negotiation issue before the town will consider adding a track to its master plan for Dry Creek Park.
Of course, the two issues are part and parcel to the same power struggle between the entities. Where the struggle comes from, we won't speculate, but it seems the entities have become more concerned with who is going to "win" this land dispute than with getting the job done.
What is getting lost in the shuffle is that it doesn't matter who wins -- both the schools and the town are funded by the same taxpayers -- but it does matter who loses.
Both boards agree, every day the intersection remains in its current state is another day children and motorists are at risk. The grant money is there -- for now at least -- to get the job done. Whether the money or the land comes from one entity or the other largely is irrelevant in the grand scheme, considering both belong to Hayden's taxpayers.
The two boards need to resolve their dispute, get this job done and move on to other issues.
Do plans for Dry Creek Park really need to include a track? We don't know. It is up to the community. Area plans are designed to be flexible, but it's hard for the officials involved to be flexible while their heels are dug so firmly into the ground at Breeze Basin.