Steamboat City Council approves Howelsen Hill jump funding

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— Facing a shortfall to complete upgrades to the ski jumping facilities at Howelsen Hill, the members of the ski hill’s Centennial Campaign asked the City Council to use available funds to make up the difference. They got their wish.

City Council members, by a 6-0 vote, approved spending nearly $350,000 in Colorado Lottery Conservation Trust Fund dollars to make the K38 jump at the nearly century-old, city-owned ski hill usable during the summer. Council member Walter Magill recused himself from the vote because he’ll be involved in the construction.

During his presentation requesting the funds, Centennial Campaign member and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said upgrading the jump would complete about $4.5 million in improvements to Howelsen since 2004. He said those were paid mostly by grants and donations and included upgrades to the other jumps, lighting and snowmaking.

Diamond said upgrades to the K38 jump would allow younger members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to train year-round.

“To really take all programs to the next level, we feel, as we’ve been communicating to the community, this is the next step to round out Howelsen Hill,” he said. “It will create a world-class, competitive facility.”

The shortfall was the result of the campaign not receiving a $700,000 congressional earmark. The project was scaled back about $350,000 by reducing snowmaking upgrades and eliminating a new magic carpet.

Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director Chris Wilson said those aspects of the project would come back to the City Council in future budgets.

The Conservation Trust Fund dollars, slated for other Howelsen projects this year, were pulled from the city’s Capital Improvements Program budget during budget hearings last fall because City Council members wanted to know what else they could be used for.

Finance Director Kim Weber explained that the funds could be used for capital expenditures and repairs for parks and open space projects. She said eligible projects include Casey’s Pond and Fish Creek trails; clay courts resurfacing at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs; and lighting, communication and timing equipment at Howelsen Hill.

But Weber added that most of those projects have budgeted grant funding this year.

City Council member Cari Hermacinski asked whether providing the funding would increase the city’s annual general fund subsidy to the Howelsen Hill Ski Area. Because the jump would be maintained by the Winter Sports Club, she was told it wouldn’t.

In meetings to discuss the city’s annual subsidy of Howelsen, City Council member Kenny Reisman said conversations also included how to increase use of the ski hill.

“We have one of the greatest places on Earth,” he said. “Let’s just make sure it’s used and used to maximum capacity. I think this is another way to make that happen.”

Winter Sports Club Athletics Director Sarah Floyd said the improved jump wouldn’t just impact the Nordic athletes, but all 1,000 athletes in the program.

Olympian Todd Lodwick also spoke in support of the jump. He said that the facilities at Howelsen helped him become the athlete he is but that they need to be upgraded to compete with those available in Park City, Utah.

“If we don’t improve it, we’re losing ground on this,” he said.

In other action Tuesday, the City Council:

■ Approved, by a 6-1 vote, a resolution that will allow Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for Yampa River System Legacy projects, including an access road, parking and river improvements at Bear River Park.

DelliQuadri explained during a presentation that Great Outdoors Colorado had asked 17 projects to submit grant requests for less funding. In addition to requesting the full amount of about $1.6 million, City Council members voted, 6-1, to allow DelliQuadri to submit an application for 75 percent funding at nearly $1.2 million.

Both funding levels require a $200,000 city match, which was set aside during budget hearings last fall, pending the grant funding.

City Council member Cari Hermacinski voted against both motions because the projects were “want-to-haves, not must-haves” and the match should be saved given expected issues with the city’s Capital Improvements Program funding.

DelliQuadri said submitting an application for reduced funding, which won’t impact the improvements to Bear River Park, would help the city’s chances of obtaining grant funding.

“I think it’s strategically very important for us to submit a slightly reduced project scope,” she said. “My guess is the projects selected to compete for funding are good projects.”

The reduced request would cut funding to the project to improve River Creek Park, where Walton Creek meets the Yampa River.

■ Approved the second reading of an ordinance to implement a one-time $25 sales tax application fee.

■ Rejected the second reading of an ordinance to implement a one-time $25 special activity permit fee.

■ Approved using $200 from the City Council’s contingency fund to sponsor the Yampa Valley Data Partners and Community Agriculture Alliance’s second Oil & Gas Symposium on March 14 at Hayden High School.

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

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