Steamboat Springs Three years and millions of dollars later, plans to construct a promenade and daylight Burgess Creek at the base of Steamboat Ski Area remain just that. With budget constraints threatening to delay the projects even further, frustrations are building on the city's advisory committee for base area redevelopment.
"The promenade was really the whole driving part of the URA," Chuck Porter, general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, said at Friday's meeting of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Advisory Committee. "That's why we got involved. That was the project. These other projects were add-ons. I want to get the promenade done."
URAAC advises the Steamboat Springs City Council on public improvement projects in the city's urban redevelopment area, which was created in 2005. The authority issues bonds to pay for the projects and, within its base area boundaries, receives property and sales taxes more than a base amount to repay them.
The URA's projects began last year with improvements to Ski Time Square Drive. They are scheduled to continue this year with the construction of a roundabout at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way. With the hopes of a city loan, there also were hopes to do about $1 million worth of design work this year for future projects - including the promenade and Burgess Creek improvements.
But with a weakening economy and city officials hoping to boost their financial reserves, hopes of a loan have evaporated.
"It became very evident to me that asking for a $1 million loan was the wrong thing to do," Redevelopment Coordinator Joe Kracum said.
To make do with the money it already has, Kracum proposed a scaling back of this year's roundabout construction. Cuts to the project include landscaping and irrigation work, leaving out a portion of sidewalk on the north side of AprÃs Ski Way and using striped crosswalks instead of colored concrete ones. Kracum said the deferred items could be added when the URA reconstructs the intersection of Village Drive and AprÃs Ski Way in 2009 or 2010. The proposed measures reduce the cost of the project from $2.99 million to $2.54 million.
"The intersection is about as scaled back as we want while maintaining full function," Kracum said.
Kracum also proposed measures that would cut the $1 million in design costs to $200,000. Those measures include an innovative design-build deal Kracum is discussing with the URA's construction contractor, Duckels Construction, for the intersection of Village Drive and AprÃs Ski Way. Under the deal, Duckels would hire the URA's design consultant, Wenk Associates, and include the design costs in its bill for actual construction.
But a similar deal would not be possible for projects as large as the promenade and daylighting of Burgess Creek because of their cost, Kracum said.
"We're asking someone to take something on a handshake - to take a risk on a handshake," he said. "There's a limit to that. And there's a limit to what I'm going to ask for."
For those projects, Kracum plans to return to the URAAC with a plan for limited design development work. The work would not rise to the level of producing construction documents or even quantity estimates such as the amount of cubic dirt that will need to be moved or lineal feet of pipe that will need to be laid. Cost estimates, as a result, will be vague at best.
Noting that the promenade and Burgess Creek projects are the URA's top priorities, some committee members, including Porter and Bill Jameson, suggested this year's construction be delayed so more resources can be devoted to them. Others, such as Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond, said that's not a logical proposition.
"I would adamantly oppose stopping the momentum," Diamond said.
URAAC co-chairman Jack Ferguson said it's a tough question the committee will have to decide in recent weeks before making a recommendation to City Council on April 8.
"These are all good projects, and we'd like to move forward with them," Ferguson said. "We want to keep some of the momentum going and show the community things are happening, but we want to get the promenade and Burgess Creek going, recognizing it's going to be a multi-year project."