Steamboat Springs City Council will not back Routt County Riders loan

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— Routt County Riders will have to come up with another way to fund the purchase of a specialized $100,000 bulldozer that would be used to build new hiking and biking trails.

During Tuesday's Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, a majority of council members said they did not support backing a loan so the nonprofit could purchase the machine.

"I'm fully supportive of what Routt County Riders does for trails, but this is not the way we get this done," City Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

The council did not take a formal vote. It merely was providing direction to City Manager Deb Hinsvark.

All but two of the council members expressed concerns about the funding request.

Council member Tony Connell said he was concerned that backing the loan would be giving Routt County Riders an unfair advantage when it came time to bid out the millions of dollars in trail work that will take place in coming years. With the voter approval of 2A during the November election, a majority of lodging tax dollars collected throughout the next decade will be used to build trails.

When approaching the council, Routt County Riders said it would commit $15,000 of its own money to purchase the singletrack-building machine. Alpine Bank would front the rest of the money, but the bank wanted Routt County Riders to find someone to back the loan.

According to the Routt County Riders request to the city, the purchase of a dozer could save millions of dollars, as well as man hours, and could help speed up construction of two trails on Emerald Mountain this summer.

Council members Scott Myller and Walter Magill supported backing the loan.

"Bring it on," Myller said. "I think it is a great idea. It's going to save up to $3 million. You get $3 million more trails out of this deal."

Routt County Riders Vice President Eric Meyer said getting the loan backed by the city was one option they were exploring for purchasing the machine, but they have other ideas for making the purchase. He said they are facing a tight timeline for buying the dozer because it is not built often, and someone else might step in to buy the most recent one off the assembly line.

"This isn't the only shot, but I like to have my things in order," Meyer said.

Council narrows trails committee applicants

The council narrowed its list of people to sit on the committee that will oversee the trail building projects, which will be funded by millions of dollars in lodging tax revenues throughout the next decade.

After reviewing nearly 30 applications, council members individually chose their 11 favorites. The 13 people with the most votes made the first cut. Seven people will be chosen for the committee.

The 13 applicants still in the running to sit on the committee are Scott Marr, Robin Craigen, Jon Wade, Harry Martin, David High, Wayne Ranieri, John Spezia, Pete Wither, Dan Bonner, Rick Garth, Christopher Sias, Gavin Maliam and David Epstein.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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Comments

tom bedell 12 months ago

I'm supportive of 2A but the idea of a singletrack building machine has me shaking my head a little. I contend that a skilled, highly motivated crew of trailbuilders (lets say 10 men and women) could keep up with or even beat a machine over the long haul. We should have a trail building competition, humans vs. machine, it could be called 'The John Henry Challenge'.

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mark hartless 12 months ago

The machine, with a qualified operator, could kill 10 men. The first big rock they came to would be the end of the competition. Humans, however, can do minor work with far less impact so in some ways it might be humans doing the work while the machine sits idle.

Normal mini excavators can be had in good used condition for a fraction of the price mentioned above. I'm not sure why one would want this "special" machine. Special means hard to work on, hard to find parts for, hard to re-sell, and very limited in its abilities. Very few things in the job description that a mini-ex with a talented operator couldn't do.

And why have the thing sitting around 8 months/yr? Just rent a machine for the season and get rid of it each fall-somebody elses problem.

Is this someone thinking "If we get the machine, they will have to let us build more trails. If we have it we can build limitless trails."??

Either way the City decision to NOT tie up taxpayers in this is a sound one.

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Joey Bowman 12 months ago

How well will it work on steep off camber hill sides ? Looks a little big to build signal track trails. Some of the best trails in Steamboat have all been hand made by people who ride all the time and have a great vision! Like MRP and many more. Sounds like the rich lazy riders way to go! Get out and work for it take pride in the trail system! Enjoy

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George Danellis 12 months ago

Despite the qualities of those who have kindly volunteered to be on the trails committee, It is concerning that there are no women in the running. Orgs, boards etc are all proven to be more effective with women involved, if not acting in a leadership role.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

So here's a slightly crazy idea - talk to Northwest Trails about leasing their machine and hiring one of their trained operators. Their website has an article describing how it was stolen and then recovered that included a statement implying it wasn't being used for a couple of months so it is not being used all the time.

A single track trail is a bit of a specialized trail because it is narrower than a typical hiking trail. Yes, parts of the Pacific Crest Trail are narrow, but much of that trail is remote. SB trails to generate tourism have to be expected to be fairly heavily used.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

We have promoted diversity in this committee and the first list of applicants appeared at first glance to be pretty diverse.

I think the lack of women to be interviewed was an oversight last night and not intentional based on pointing that out after the meeting, but I don't know how they correct it now. There was opportunity for not only diversity with gender, but also age and type of trail user. I don't know most of the ones selected to be interviewed, but I do hope they are diverse enough to represent the whole community and visitors we expect to attract.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Scott,

We have talked to Joe at the NWTA many times. We offered to pay more than their advertised rates. We then asked them to name a price for 2-4 weeks. We were turned down as they do use it and don't have plans to have it leave the area.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

The diversity of the board is also limited by all candidates being white. Of course, that just reflects the city council itself.

So if not the NWTA's machine then does anyone else in the US own one of those single track machines?

And maybe we could convince local football, rubgy and SSWSC to consider trail building as fitness and strength training.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Tom,

That is the spirit! If we get the machine you are on! You and your 9 best best trail builders. We start on either end and meet somewhere in the middle. Competition always creates efficiencies. Obviously the goals of that would be overall cost and time. Those are the two things we strongly believe this will help with.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Joey,

The ST240 machine is really narrow (min 24") to allow it to build narrow trail with minimal disturbances. This is a large concern with land managers and other groups we have spoken to: Ag Alliance (minimize noxious weeds).

Check out this video showing it working on steep side slopes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9yoAAvRtH0#t=1

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Mark,

Small often means not capable, but the ST240 is almost 5,000 lbs (bobcat's mini-ex that is 29" wide is half that). To get a mini-ex in that weight range it is 5' wide. I think most would agree that it is not ideal to build 5' wide plus benches for the majority of the trails described in 2A. Obviously, weight is not everything. The ST240's bucket has more than twice the bucket digging force than the closest comparable bobcat mini-ex. It also has 76% of the 5' wide model, not bad for a small machine that can go places the 5' wide machine would not be approved or would have to create a road not a trail. If all the trails we proposed were like the flow trails at the ski area. A wider mini-ex would make much more sense, but those are readily available for rent so they the only reason to buy one would be to save cost and that would be hard to justify when 6 months of the year we often have snow on the ground.

Only a few very large mini-ex's have options for 6-way dozer blades. The ST240 has a small 6 way dozer blade that will help do the rough shaping of the trail (finish hand work to follow). I don't like to compare trails to roads often, but they have some similarities. I doubt you would find many heavy equipment operators that would honestly say that building a road with only excavators when a capable dozer was an option would be cost efficient. If there are any out there I would love to talk to them.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Our biggest concern is the fact that the ST240 is not mass produced. However, the design is based on a machine built in the 1980's with some very noticeable improvements. The Kabota dealer/service center in Craig is the likely warranty service center (still being confirmed). Many local people can service its hydraulic system. The parts that are hard to get (the drive motors) are stocked in Oregon. They have not had any problems with them, but understood our concern about any hard to get parts. The other parts are easily fabricated and could even be done locally in a pinch.

We are still checking off a few concerns before we are 100% convinced the ST240 is the right machine, but right now the evidence is really pointing to that machine saving much more money than it costs to buy it.

I encourage the questions and concerns and I'll try to address them all when I can squeeze it in with all the other volunteer time this is taking. Every meeting we attend and concern someone brings up is going to make this trail building project more successful. Thanks for taking your time to be involved.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Scott,

There are other machines in the us. A boyscout ranch (in OR I think), One near San Fransisco. Another on its way or recently arrived in the Phoenix area.

I have not talked to all of them to see if they will rent us their machine. Based on the response from the NWTA who already has a model set up to rent their machine out, I have not prioritized getting in touch all the other machines in the US. When I find time, and likely before any down payment was made, we will try to convince others to let us use their machine this summer. I doubt it will go anywhere, but it is worth a shot.

I can pass on some contact information to you if you have the time to chase that down this week.

Free free to email me at: trails@routtcountyriders.org.

Anyone who wants to help is encouraged to get in touch with us. This is a community project.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Last thing for today. I would like to emphasise that it was never Routt County Riders intent to request the city back a loan. When that option was suggested, we let it play out while we are actively working on other options. We would have appreciated the support and it would have ensured we were able to secure the machine for next summer, but we still have a chance in the next month to pull it all together. If anyone can help with cash donations, would like to discuss trails on their land or anything else they think might help, please contact trails@routtcountyriders.org asap. Thanks.

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Fred Duckels 12 months ago

Lots of money available and it is time for empire building. I would to see how this ties into the big picture and a detailed picture of the total scope. Right now we have visions of big money and lots of wannabees. Our procurement policies need to be followed regardless of personal ambitions.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Big picture: http://www.steamboatspringstrails.com/the-proposal (there is also a link on this site to the 240+ page paper version that has been discussed for 18+ months). 2A funds as currently budgeted only cover the cost of approx. 30% of the proposed projects.

The ST240 could reduce costs and speed up the build on most of the projects other than the trailheads, bathrooms and other in-town trails. Those would obviously be outside of the expertise of Routt County Riders.

I don't think there are any "wannabees" with "personal ambitions" involved. The people that have been involved have been building trails in this valley for years and have impressive resumes. And have volunteered countless hours to improve the trails that most of the community enjoys frequently. Their volunteer work has greatly improved the appeal of this town for those who enjoy the outdoors. Others who want to be involved are encouraged to get involved with Routt County Riders.

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Fred Duckels 12 months ago

Eric. I respect your contribution but if we are talking tax money this must be bid out if it exceeds a certain amount. Volunteerism is fine but our procurement policies define the use of tax money.

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Eric Meyer 12 months ago

Fred,

We are aware of the bid requirements and welcome competitive bids in this process. Whatever stretches the 2A money the furthest while still producing the desired finished product. If a private company is more efficient than RCR, that will be known shortly and the contracts will go to them as long as they stay more competitive!

I have gone through many of the past projects that RCR has been involved with in the area. I have no doubt that RCR can stretch the 2A money more than for profit businesses for many reasons. Rarely (if ever) will you have people volunteer for a for profit business. Non-profits are able to avoid some employment taxes. Much of the overhead cost can be done by volunteers. And, RCR is not going to be looking to make a profit. If a build comes under budget, that money will go back into future projects or maintenance. RCR has a long history working with the land managers both in construction and maintenance.

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Fred Duckels 12 months ago

Eric, If you are to bid you will need to be bonded and insured. Your surety will need assurances that you are financially capable of finishing under adverse circumstances. Your volunteers are irrelevant to the surety company. If you think that the private sector is overcharging you are in for a rude awakening. I would hold off on surging ahead until you become better informed. Contracts are for big boys.

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Fred Duckels 12 months ago

Eric, I'm not trying to ruin your day but the bidding process is the holy grail to contractors when it comes to public moneys. It will be highly scrutinized, every I will be dotted etc. This is irrelevant of any participation that I may have interest in. Expect legal challenges if there are any suspected improprieties. We value the bidding process and it must be followed.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

Eric,

You say this particular machine will save a tremendous amount of money. A reasonable assessment of risks would note these are essentially unique machines and so have more reliability and maintenance questions than commonplace machines with a long track record.

This all gets down to money very quickly. A machine can be very effective. An unreliable machine is very expensive both to repair and it's lack of availability to do planned work.

I think it is an excessive unneeded risk to contemplate buying one of these machines based upon current public information.

The biggest risk is the relative lack of experience with one of these machines. Before considering spending $100K, I would want to spend at least a week working with one on a real trail building project. Not only to see how well it performs in the real world, but to also see how it fits in with all of the equipment. Might learn that it is a great machine, but they also use a small fleet of skidsteers, ATVs and so on. I note that Northwest Trails says this machine moves at 2.5 mph in a picture with it carrying a mountain bike to allow the operator to return to the trailhead. Thus, you could possibly learn it should not be the first piece of equipment to be purchased.

Another big issue is determining how much it is the only machine able to build how much of each possible trail. A normal hiking trail is typically wide enough for other commonly available equipment. The question for buying the ST240 is not how often it is useful, but how often it is worth it's added cost compared to commonly available equipment.

The above questions should be answered before buying the ST240. It seems to me that there is substantial political pressure to initially build popular walking trails that could be built with smaller skidsteers. Thus, Trails Alliance would probably be better off buying a smaller skidsteer today and building up a trails building organization that eventually will buy a st240.

Also, as Fred says in his comments, his is far more experienced in dealing with the public bid process and is willing to sue if it isn't awarded according to the dotted "i"s. Though, it is city law defining the bid process so the city's trail committee and can be changed. I would suggest that you all talk to Northwest Trails about how they are awarded the trails building work and compare that to city laws to see if changes should be made. Trails Alliance, and the general public, doesn't want legalistic private companies to use their expertise in the public bidding process to exclude Trails Alliance and their volunteers from working on local trails.

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Fred Duckels 12 months ago

For the most part tax money for infrastructure is handled thru the bid process and it proceeds relatively smooth. The other situation that we have had is when pillow tax money is available for use. The resort/lodging community seem to look on this as their personal fund and they want to manage the process to their satisfaction. Let's look at some of the problems that have arisen. The gorilla in the room is the Haymaker Golf Course where the contractor was predetermined. Advertisements for bidding the work were published in the Denver Post in order to avoid detection by local contractors. They did notify some contractors in order to have a prequalified selection list but the preferred bidder had inside information that assured his success. Also the architect was an ex employee of the eventual contractor. The local golf community got involved and their exuberance put them right in the middle of the mess. Other debacles include the Howelson Hill chairlift and the Bob Adams Field Terminal building. Both had predetermined contractors and shenanigans had to be pulled as they were not the original low bidders. Back to the subject at hand and it is easy too see the importance of rising above Zimbabwe standards. We take pride in our town and we must do the same for our bidding process lest we develop a "good old boy" image.

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