Steamboat City Council halts bicycle funding application

Members opt to wait a year to ask for state money

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday night against applying to receive future Colorado sales tax revenues in excess of $21.3 million through a state program for bike-related projects, instead opting to support an application submission next year.

Council members expressed three primary concerns about the application that, if approved, would have provided tax-increment financing to pay back the city for $8.5 million in projects designed to further Steamboat’s goal to become a biking hub. Because the projects would be paid back through future state sales tax revenues, the city would issue bonds to fund them, which were estimated to cost up to $12.8 million.

Several City Council members were concerned the city would have to provide a “moral obligation” on the bonds to issue them, meaning it would have to repay the bonds if future tax revenues weren’t sufficient. And because the amount of tax-increment financing the state will allocate will be based on tax revenues from March 2011 through February 2012, it’s difficult to project exactly how much will be available.

City Council members Meg Bentley and Jon Quinn also weren’t sure whether more than $3.3 million in proposed improvements to make Yampa Street a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly “entertainment hub” were appropriate. Quinn suggested that a business improvement district, in which tax revenues generated in a specific district would fund improvements, might be a better fit for Yampa Street.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski and council member Kenny Reisman were most concerned about not having annual maintenance and operation costs of the projects, which also included creating bicycle attractions, improving infrastructure and other amenities, and enhancing safety.

“I don’t think we can submit this without that number,” Reisman said. “I don’t think we can approve this without that number because it puts us at too much annual risk without it.”

The City Council voted 5-2 against supporting the application. Only Bentley and Scott Myller supported it.

The Colorado Regional Tourism Act created the program, which is slated to provide $50 million to two statewide projects a year for three years. The state’s Economic Development Commission will consider the applications, which are due June 30. Projects won’t be approved until March 2012.

Steamboat Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said Steamboat could be better prepared to apply for the tax-increment financing if it waits to see how the state reacts to this year’s applications.

“This is the first time they’ve done the program,” she said. “We have nothing to look at to find out what particular things they are focused on or interested in. We are going in blind as is everybody else. So being able to look at the successful winning proposals will be helpful in terms of us determining how to put together a winning proposal.”

But DelliQuadri reminded the City Council that only $50 million was earmarked for the program and that if it was all dedicated this year, Steamboat wouldn’t have a chance to reapply.

It was a risk council members were willing to take.

“I know there’s probably a lot of disappointment that we’ve waited an extra year, but I’ve got to think we only look better as a proposal if we really fine tune it,” Hermacinski said.

Council members directed DelliQuadri to work with a group they unanimously approved to serve as a Regional Tourism Zone Board to redraft the application for next year.

In other action, the City Council approved $67,740 in projects proposed by the Bike Town USA Initiative, including $18,040 for striping and signage for the Safe Routes to School program, $45,000 for wayfinding signage and $4,700 for safety education and community awareness efforts.

Council members unanimously supported the Safe Routes to School portion. Funding will come from the City Council’s $35,000 contingency fund.

Hermacinski and council members Bart Kounovsky and Walter Magill opposed the wayfinding signage and funding for safety education and awareness. The $49,700 for those projects will be paid through excess sales tax revenues the city expects to collect soon.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

wowzers73 3 years, 4 months ago

Instead of spending the money on infrastructure improvements, spend it on bicycle safety and rules of the road education. I've seen far too many people, let alone kids and teenagers riding their bikes as if it were a free for all. People running stop signs, inhibiting the flow of traffic, and just lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of bicycle operating. I'm a huge fan of bikes! I've got 6 of them, but to see the irresponsibility and ignorance on the road is truly detrimental to the rest of the cyclists that are trying to progress the initiative. Start with educating first so that when and if we do infrastructure, then people will know how to use it and use it properly.

Ed Briones

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

This idea that cyclists jam up intersections by running stop signs is rarely true.

As someone that used to ride hundreds of miles a week, I know that I could roll into an intersection and being so small, could cross when it might not be my turn, but it was also a gap when no one else could use so I was not delaying anyone. In fact, the most likely way for a cyclist to cause delays for other vehicles at a 4 way stop intersection is to not take the first opportunity to slip a gap, but patiently wait your turn because some drivers will wave you through so everyone waits while that driver doesn't move until you realize you are being waved through and get across the intersection.

Yes, there are dummies that ride through an intersection without slowing down and basically hope that no one hits them and no one defends their actions. But the more common situation of rolling to an intersection, seeing a gap when no one else is going and going through does not delay anyone else by a single second.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

As for not applying for the funding - miracles of miracles, ironies of ironies.

The previous assumption that it was free money because the previous worst case analysis had sales tax increasing enough to pay for the bonds had failed to take into account that the sales tax baseline was not in the past, but included next year as well. So if the sales tax numbers continued to come in higher than projected then the baseline number would have been higher than projected and then there might not be the subsequent increases to pay for the project.

And because the project was not expected to notably improve sales tax numbers then instead of being free money, it becomes yet another ongoing obligation.

As for improving Yampa St, sidewalks and curbs surely cannot cost $3.3M. Yampa St is okay for bikes, but the lack of sidewalks makes it a mess for peds. It does not need to be some sort of ped and bike hub, it'd be a huge improvement if peds didn't have to walk on the street often between the parked cars and the flow of traffic.

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mtroach 3 years, 4 months ago

Scott, I disagree that it's OK to disobey traffic laws when on a bike. Just because someone is not delayed is no reason to disregard the law. It's attitudes like yours that ed was against, and that anger drivers that are waiting and obeying the law. Everyone using the roads needs a re-education to their responsibilities toward other road users, starting with you. Bikes should be expected to wait like everyone else and to maintain the system of road use the laws provide. It's just as easy for a cyclist to stop and wait their turn as it is to slid through a gap in traffic when it's not their turn.

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