Photo by John F. Russell
Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Howell chats with Steamboat Springs City Council member Steve Ivancie during a meeting of the Housing Authority's executive committee Monday afternoon. The meeting focused on the authority's relationship with the city.
Steamboat Springs The Yampa Valley Housing Authority's touchy relationship with the city of Steamboat Springs was the topic of Monday's meeting of the Housing Authority's executive committee. It was the group's first meeting with new Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Howell.
In advance of a meeting of the Housing Authority's Board of Directors on Thursday and a joint meeting between the Steamboat Springs City Council and the board in February, the executive committee discussed the best way to define the two bodies' roles and responsibilities and how to resolve tension and mistrust. All options for the Housing Authority's future appear to be on the table, with committee member Tony Seaver even suggesting the possible dissolution of the quasi-governmental body.
"That's a discussable option as far as I'm concerned," Seaver said. "In many ways, that would be better than this limbo."
Howell suggested the city and Housing Authority hold a "pre-meeting" with representatives from both sides to define a process for dealing with one another that will include a commitment to honesty, candor and respect.
"My concern is if we don't have an agreed-upon process, we're never going to resolve the issues," said Howell, who began working for the Housing Authority this month.
One topic for discussion at the joint meeting will be city funds generated from affordable housing legislation passed last year. Housing Authority President Mary Alice Page-Allen said the city should share estimates for how much money is being generated for the affordable housing fund and intentions for its use.
"I think there's a need for people in the community and us in this room to have an idea of the magnitude of this fund," Seaver added.
City Councilman and Housing Authority executive committee member Scott Myller described the money and its potential uses as an "800-pound gorilla," but Seaver said the larger issue is how the city and Housing Authority are going to work together - or not work together.
"Is the Yampa Valley Housing Authority supposed to be in competition with the city department," asked Seaver, "or is the Yampa Valley Housing Authority supposed to be the focal point for the provision of affordable housing in the Yampa Valley? That's my 800-pound gorilla."
Howell said it's necessary to resolve this and other issues if the Housing Authority is to ever build the trust necessary to get voters to approve a dedicated funding source for it. County commissioner and executive committee member Nancy Stahoviak noted that this was the county and city's goal when the Housing Authority was created with an intergovernmental agreement four years ago. She said such a funding source would be preferable because it would eliminate conflicts arising from the county and city wanting such a large say in how their money is being spent.
"I frankly get very tired of all these tit-for-tat discussions," Stahoviak said.
In lieu of a dedicated funding source, the city and county jointly fund the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Its 2008 operating fund is $310,999, which includes $105,000 from the city of Steamboat Springs and $80,000 from Routt County. The remainder of the budget consists of revenues from the management of housing projects, grants, fees and other sources.
Howell was hired late last year to replace former executive director Elizabeth Black. Her annual salary is $100,000.
Project Manager Curtis Church served as interim executive director between Black's resignation and Howell's hiring. At its meeting Thursday, the Housing Authority Board of Directors will consider a recommendation to raise Church's salary from $56,000 to $65,000 in consideration of added job responsibilities that include responsibility and oversight of the Housing Authority's real estate assets.