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School Board approves field house, votes not to support Amendment 66

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Editor's note: The headline of this story has been updated to clarify that the Steamboat Springs School Board voted not to support Amendment 66.

After listening to numerous proponents and opponents of Amendment 66 speak Monday night, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted not to support the statewide school funding ballot initiative.

More than 25 community members — many of whom are current teachers within the district — attended Monday night's board meeting to voice their opinion on the initiative. But in the end, three of the four board members present at the meeting voted not to support the issue, which if approved by state voters, would be the largest income tax increase in Colorado history.

District 2 interim board member Randy Homan was the one board member who voted in favor of supporting Amendment 66, stating he was “looking at the better good for all of Colorado” with his vote of support. Board members Denise Connelly, Brian Kelly and Robin Crossan agreed not to support the initiative but admitted things could change between now and when ballots are collected on Nov. 5. The school board’s District 5 representative Rebecca Williams was absent from the meeting.

Of the roughly two dozen community members who attended the meeting, 14 spoke directly to the board in support or opposition of the bill. Proponents primarily were teachers from Steamboat schools, and they argued that if Amendment 66 isn’t passed by the voters, another round of significant cuts could be on the horizon.

Opponents, like Steamboat resident Chuck McConnell, argued that raising $950 million in taxes is excessive.

“What bothers me more than anything else is it’s just another effort to throw more dollars at education and expect an outcome,” McConnell said.

Board members, however, agreed that even though they resolved as a group not to support the amendment, things can change throughout the course of the next three weeks.

“What I may or may not do in the ballot box may not be on the table. It could be different, but I do have to represent my School Board and its constituents,” Connelly said.

In other action, board members unanimously resolved to support Steamboat resident Mark Lynch’s proposal to pursue plans to build a field house on the Steamboat Springs Middle School campus.

Lynch made his initial proposal during a school board meeting in late August, telling the panel he would help raise the millions of dollars necessary to fund the indoor facility. Needing the board’s support on the public-private partnership, Lynch was asked to return in October so the board could weigh their approval.

Lynch presented school officials with a booklet outlining potential building options and financial projections. He was accompanied by Kevin Sankey, project treasurer.

Echoing the same confidence he had for the plan in August, Lynch assured the board the project would be financially sustainable.

The proposed field house could cost $5 million to build under one construction model. Lynch and Sankey said the facility could be divided into thirds for multiple-activity use.

The pair also floated the idea of having leased tenants contract to use the facility to help offset the cost. Lynch called the idea a “no-brainer” and “as profitable as you’d ever want it to be,” and added that three tenants already have inquired about leasing space.

The year-round facility also could be rented to the public to help fund operations. Lynch and a group of community members currently are raising funds for the project.

Board members expressed concern about having a public entity using school property and discussed potential parking issues, but eventually came to the consensus that Lynch and Sankey presented a compelling project.

“I think it’s tremendously exciting, the concept of it,” Board President Kelly said. “I remember when my older child was about 5 or 6 years old, there wasn’t anything. This town has been struggling with a concept like this for over 20 years.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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