Michelle Shen, from New Jersey, shops for cowboy hats at F.M. Light & Sons in downtown Steamboat Springs on Tuesday afternoon. City officials are working to change the way community groups like Mainstreet Steamboat Springs apply for city funding.

Photo by John F. Russell

Michelle Shen, from New Jersey, shops for cowboy hats at F.M. Light & Sons in downtown Steamboat Springs on Tuesday afternoon. City officials are working to change the way community groups like Mainstreet Steamboat Springs apply for city funding.

City works to refine funding relationships with nonprofits

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— The city of Steamboat Springs is looking to play a more active role in vetting and awarding grants to a small number of community groups that don’t fit into the city’s established funding process for local nonprofits.

For years, the Human Resources, Arts and Culture and Environmental coalitions have vetted grant requests from nonprofits that fall under their umbrellas. This fiscal year, the coalitions told the Steamboat Springs City Council how to dole out $329,000 worth of city funds.

But organizations like Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, Bike Town USA, Steamboat Mountain Village Partnership and a few others don’t fit the criteria for any of the three coalitions. Until recently, some of those outliers had to make their funding pitches directly to City Council.

“Before, they kind of floundered around,” Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said. “They didn’t have a clear-cut way to get to the city with their request.”

Hinsvark said city officials now are planning to have groups like Mainstreet Steamboat, Yampa Valley Data Partners and the Mountain Village Partnership apply directly to City Manager Jon Roberts’ office for funding that would come from his department’s economic development budget.

Bike Town USA and Routt County Riders would apply to the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department for funding, and the Civil Air Patrol and Routt County Search and Rescue could apply for funding from Steamboat’s Department of Public Safety, Hinsvark said.

She said some of that already is happening, but the new process would be streamlined and standardized.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association will continue to apply to the City Council for marketing dollars, Hinsvark added.

Other groups that don’t fit into any of the coalitions would apply for funding from the city department they would benefit.

Some of the details of the proposal still need to be ironed out.

Hinsvark said city staff plans to meet later this week to finalize the details of the proposal before it is presented to the City Council.

Meanwhile, many nonprofit leaders are waiting to hear how exactly it will work.

While Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett wrote in her group’s e-newsletter this week that the plan is “good news,” leaders of some of the other groups that could be affected, including Bike Town USA and the Mountain Village Partnership, said Tuesday that they still need some more information about the new process before commenting on it.

“They’ll have an advocate and maybe a better relationship with how they integrate into the city,” Hinsvark said. “City Council has a big budget to deal with. They may not have exactly the means to evaluate the value of each of these organizations after they make their presentations. To have these (grant requests) already vetted really does streamline their process.”

City Council President Bart Kounovsky said he is supportive of the proposal.

“What we didn’t want to have happen is to end up with a group of collective organizations that didn’t fit anywhere, and then the only way to vet them is to have them present to council,” he said. “It gets hard because if you get 10 of (these community groups), it’s hard (for the council) to weigh their requests fairly during our budget meeting.”

In the past, the city has mulled the creation of a fourth economic development coalition to handle the outlying grant requests. But Hinsvark said the idea was shelved after it didn’t receive enough community support.

The retooling of the vetting process for groups like Mainstreet Steamboat is part of a larger plan to overhaul the city’s entire funding process for community groups.

City officials say the plan aims to remove potential conflicts of interest on the three coalitions’ grant-vetting committees and increase council’s oversight of the process.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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