Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council reversed course Tuesday on a proposal that would have led to a 2 percent increase in gas bills within city limits. A vote to increase the city's franchise fee with Atmos Energy from 3 percent to 5 percent failed, 5-2.
Councilmen Scott Myller and Walter Magill voted in favor of the proposal, while council members Meg Bentley, Cari Hermacinski, Loui Antonucci, Steve Ivancie and Jon Quinn voted against it.
The last such increase was in 2002, when the franchise fee was increased from 1 percent to 3 percent. A franchise fee is a fee that governments charge utilities to operate on public property. The city had planned to put the additional revenue, estimated at $150,000, toward sustainability projects in Steamboat Springs such as purchasing hybrid vehicles.
Council members such as Hermacinski and Quinn voted in favor of the proposal at first reading, but said their minds since have changed.
"I'm hearing loud and clear from the people we represent that mostly this is something they don't support," Hermacinski said.
Myller and Magill said they liked the idea of simultaneously encouraging energy conservation and funding sustainability programs. They felt the increase was negligible.
"It can be easily covered," Magill said, "with a sweater or something like that."
- City Council debated Tuesday what to do with the money it collects from developers as part of its affordable housing legislation.
As of March 3, that money totaled about $161,300, Community Housing Coordinator Nancy Engelken said. Council debated whether to put projects out for bid on an annual basis or wait until the fund reaches a certain amount, such as $750,000. No official action was taken on the subject.
- Council also debated a proposal put forth by Hermacinski to change its "exit strategy" for deed-restricted units. The city's affordable housing ordinance provides the option for the city or Yampa Valley Housing Authority to purchase units that don't sell under their deed restrictions after 12 months. If neither exercises that option, the units are released to the free market.
Hermacinski suggested the city amend the ordinance to allow for a graduated exit strategy that would increase deed restrictions to higher income limits before units are lost to the free market. Other council members said they need more information before making such a change. No official action was taken.
- City Council received an update on its recently completed Community Center in the 1600 block of Lincoln Avenue, west of downtown Steamboat. The center's primary user, the Routt County Council on Aging, plans to begin offering its meals and other programming in the center beginning Monday. Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord was given permission to spend up to $20,000 of the center's remaining budget on additional furniture for the facility. Councilman Steve Ivancie said the city also is willing to accept donated furniture and artwork.
- Council members also received an update on access to Emerald Park. Many concerned residents of Pamela Lane attended Tuesday's meeting to convey traffic and safety concerns resulting from heavy summertime use of the park. Council members were updated on alternatives to create a new access to the park first identified in 2002, but never acted on. Council members apologized to the Pamela Lane residents for the issue not yet being solved and vowed to take steps to do so.
- City Council appointed Cedar Beauregard, Tom Ernst and Sarah Fox to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission. Steve Dawes, Sarah Katherman, Blair McNamara and Steve Gadbois were appointed to the Ice Rink Advisory Committee.