Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night gave its transportation department a green light to apply for grant funding to operate a new bus on the city’s yellow line, but two council members weren’t on board with the proposal.
Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the bus that currently runs the yellow line — which serves Old Town, Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus and the Hillside Village Apartments — is nearing the end of its operating life and needs to be replaced.
He added that the city needs to pursue other funding sources to continue to operate the route.
“We’ve been trying to find other opportunities to fund this service,” Shelton said before he introduced the grant proposal he will submit to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Shelton said the city historically has received some funding for the yellow line from CMC, including a larger sum of $38,000 last year because of the college’s ongoing construction project that eliminated several parking spaces on campus and increased student demand for the route.
But Shelton said because of budget constraints, the college this year indicated it might not be able to contribute to the route’s operating cost. The college also expects ridership to go down because of added parking capacity after the construction project is completed.
City Council President Bart Kounovsky and council member Cari Hermacinski voted against the grant proposal and questioned whether the city should continue to invest in the route.
“I think we’ve got to be able to do this in a more efficient and effective way,” Kounovsky said about the operation of the yellow line. “If (CMC) has half the ridership on that route, and they are telling us they don’t need the service or they don’t want to pay for it, I struggle with that.”
According to Jonathan Flint, operations manager for the city’s transit department, 28,730 people rode the yellow line in 2011. That figure represents about 3 percent of the 1 million riders Flint said rode Steamboat Springs Transit buses last year. He estimated about half of the yellow line ridership comes from the Alpine Campus.
The grant Shelton plans to apply for totals $189,890 and will require a 50 percent match from the city. The cost includes a $46,720 lease purchase agreement to obtain a new medium-duty, 20-passenger hybrid bus for the yellow line.
City Council also took a big step toward finalizing the committee that soon will help decide how the city should spend future revenue from its 1 percent lodging tax. The tax, which netted $634,359 for the Haymaker Golf Course last year, will be freed up from supporting the course in 2014.
The six-member accommodations tax committee will help decide how the city should use the tax and includes three members of the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association, council members Hermacinski and Kenny Reisman and Steamboat businessman Tom Ptach.
Ptach was appointed to the committee Tuesday night by a 4-1 vote.
Council member Sonja Macys voted against Ptach’s appointment because she was concerned about potential conflicts of interest, including Ptach’s service on the Haymaker Golf Committee. Haymaker long has been the sole beneficiary of the lodging tax.
“I’m going to come to (this committee) with a very open mind,” Ptach said before he was appointed.
Reached by phone after the meeting Tuesday night to discuss Macys’ concern about his appointment, Ptach declined to comment.
The City Council originally planned for the lodging tax committee to have five members, but council voted, 4-1, on Tuesday to add Reisman as the committee’s sixth member. Macys opposed the addition of a second council member.
Council members Kevin Kaminski and Walter Magill were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
In other action
City Council voted, 5-0 and without comment, to approve the first reading of a revised version of the city’s false alarm ordinance. If approved during a second reading next month, the new ordinance would do away with the escalating fine structure that currently charges building owners $100 for a second false alarm violation and $100 more for every subsequent violation. The new ordinance would not levy fines until the false alarm ordinance has been violated more than six times in a year. On the seventh and all subsequent violations, the violator could be assessed a $500 fine.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com