Recreation center on the line

One Steamboat Place also up for discussion, but no action

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If you go

What: Meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council

When: 5 p.m.

Where: Centennial Hall

Contact: Call city offices at 879-2060 for more information

ON THE AGENDA

5 p.m. Housing discussion with Timbers Company staff and project planners for One Steamboat Place

6 p.m. Second reading of ordinance to create a rec center ballot issue

— The Steamboat Springs City Council will decide tonight whether an $18.5 million recreation center will be on the ballot Nov. 7.

The council gave initial approval to an ordinance implementing a recreation center ballot issue with a 4-1 vote Aug. 8. A second and final approval is needed tonight, in order to meet city deadlines for ballot language certification. Should the council reject the ordinance, local voters would not be asked about a recreation center until at least November 2007.

"We'll have to make a decision one way or the other," council member Paul Strong said.

Council President Pro-tem Susan Dellinger cast the lone "no" vote Aug. 8, citing concerns about a lack of public input and saying the work done so far, by several community groups supporting a recreation center, is "perfect for placing this on the ballot next year."

A condition of the approval Aug. 8 was that a public survey be completed to gauge community support for a new recreation center funded by a property tax or sales tax increase, or both.

City Manager Alan Lanning said Denver investment banking firm Stifel, Nicolaus agreed to finance the survey, which Lanning said was conducted "within the last week" and generated 300 complete responses.

Stifel, Nicolaus commissioned a public information company to conduct the survey, with no current cost to the city, Lanning said.

The city manager added that in his experience, investment banks in Colorado often finance surveys on the condition of repayment upon passage of the bond issue involved. The cost of the survey would come from revenue generated to repay the bond - in other words, Steamboat property or sales taxes - and is a gamble the banks take, Lanning said.

"They often engage in this kind of work in anticipation of a bonding issue," he said. "In my previous experience in Colorado, there's not a contractual relationship involved."

Lanning said Stifel, Nicolaus will release the survey results publicly for the first time tonight.

City Council President Ken Brenner said Monday that the survey results are telling, but would not comment further.

"The data they got is going to indicate a fairly easy decision about what to do," Brenner said. "There will be a suggested plan from the staff."

Should the council place a recreation center on the ballot, Steamboat voters would need to approve two separate ballot questions in order for the project to succeed. The $18.5 million needed for construction, operation and maintenance of the new center would - as of now - come from two property taxes. A preference for funding through a sales tax was part of the survey.

One ballot question would ask for an $18 million bond to construct the center on a 37-acre site between Anglers Drive and Hilltop Parkway. The maximum repayment amount, given possible interest accrued over the life of the bond debt, would be $30.96 million. The property tax would generate up to $1.6 million per year to repay the bond.

A second question would ask for another property tax to generate at least $545,000 annually for operation and maintenance of the center.

The proposed recreation center would include a teen center, a space for youth after-school programs, an elevated walking track, an indoor swimming pool with a diving well, and a multi-purpose space with a kitchen. Room for expansion could eventually allow for a field house with a climbing wall and racquetball courts.

Before tonight's recreation center decision, council members will conduct a "detailed discussion" about community housing with planners of the One Steamboat Place development at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

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