Hayden recreation district shaky

Town officials seek supporters to take on campaign proposal

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If you go

What: Hayden Town Board meeting

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Town Hall, 178 W. Jefferson Ave.

— The proposed West Routt Recreation District is in peril.

Members of the Hayden organizing committee met Monday to discuss the future of the plan, which they might take to voters in November. The district would increase property taxes in and around Hayden to "finance, construct and manage park and recreation facilities" for the area, according to a draft of the service plan.

Town Manager Russ Martin plans to make a recommendation to the Town Board on Thursday regarding whether to proceed. He said his recommendation would depend on whether the organizing committee finds someone to carry the torch for the proposal.

Martin has worked for years to push the recreation district. But, he told the committee, the board has told him to focus on other areas.

"They're afraid this will consume my summer," Martin said. The board wants him to look at a planned new police station, the possibility of going to home rule, the possibility of increasing the tax on car rentals and the possibility of eliminating the town food tax.

Although board members favored the proposed recreation district, "they think those things are more important to the town," Martin said. He also said the board wanted Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Hockett to spend less time on the issue.

The question becomes, Martin said, who will pound pavement to educate voters and promote the plan? The proposal is nearly ready, he said. But the campaign is only beginning.

The recreation district would add a five-mill-levy property tax in Hayden and surrounding parts of Routt County. If approved by voters, the district will raise about $400,000 a year, according to the service plan.

Homeowners would pay the district about $40 for every $100,000 of assessed home value, Martin said.

If the district is approved, the Town Board will cut Hayden's mill levy by five mills, the draft states, to effectively offset the increase for Hayden residents. Those in the district but outside Hayden would pay the full five mills.

The ballot issue would cost Hayden as much as $10,000 and would require hearings with Routt County commissioners as well as the District Court.

Seven people attended Monday's meeting, including Martin and Hockett. Hayden School District Superintendent Mike Luppes, who is the interim chairman of the committee, said he feared that no one would push the ordinance until they saw Parks and Recreation suffering because of the economic downturn.

Several committee members, including John Shaw and Bill Irvine, said it would be difficult to pass a tax increase when voters are pinched by a slow economy.

Martin and others said backing from Totally Kids and Hayden schools could help push the proposal to the ballot. If Martin doesn't see more people supporting the plan at Thursday's board meeting, he will tell the board not to OK money, he said.

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