City to plan improvements

5-year-plan will help outline what tax could accomplish

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— City Council will set a five-year capital improvement plan at its Tuesday meeting in hopes of giving voters an idea of where money will be spent if they approve a proposed property tax.

The city has budgeted $17.9 million for the five-year plan, but that figure could increase by $6.75 million if the tax is approved. The extra money would allow the city to complete more of the $40 million worth of capital improvement projects it has identified for the next five years.

In November, voters will be asked to approve a 3.55-mill property tax for fire and emergency medical services. If passed, the tax will free up $1.2 million the city currently budgets to support the fire department. Those city dollars would then be redirected to capital improvement projects.

Council members have said a flaw in last year's 5-mill property tax proposal, which was very similar to November's ballot issue, was not telling the voters where the money would be spent once put in the capital improvement fund.

The capital improvement list City Council members received this week identifies a few key and costly projects: burying utilities in the downtown area, creating a paving maintenance program, replacing the Yahmonite Bridge, replacing two fire trucks and two ambulances, improving the airport, improving trails, continuing the Yampa River Legacy Project west of town, improving South Lincoln medians, replacing the tennis bubble, renovating Ski Time Square and expanding the city's public works maintenance shop.

Topping the list is the downtown beautification project, where utilities would be put under ground. The project, which is being proposed to take place in four phases from 2004 to 2010, would cost an estimated $3.95 million. Putting utilities underground, the city's management team said, will reduce visual pollution, improve traffic flow, increase parking areas and make snow removal easier in alleys.

Another major project is the renovation of Ski Time Square. The city has earmarked $850,000 for a major facelift to the area. The city estimates it will cost $400,000 to place a bus turnaround near the entrance of the ski area and the project will largely be covered by grants.

Redoing the medians on South Lincoln Avenue is estimated to cost close to $1 million. The city said the existing medians are not appropriate as a gateway to the mountain area, and redoing them would allow for a landscaped gateway with irrigated gardens, similar to the downtown entrance.

The list also includes making improvements to the Steamboat Springs Airport, with $1.2 million estimated for airport projects and $798,000 coming from federal and state funding. The city said the money could be used for repaving the apron and taxiway.

Smaller proposed projects include replacing the Yahmonite Bridge and trail improvements.

Over the next five years, the city hopes to leverage $625,000 of its own money to acquire $2.5 million in available grant funds for land acquisitions, parks and conservation easements.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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