Steamboat Springs A $1 million grant opportunity that would have helped the city of Steamboat Springs extend the Yampa River Core Trail didn't die quietly Tuesday night in Centennial Hall.
At the end of a sometimes tense discussion about the grant, the majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council ultimately accepted city staff's decision to not apply for it.
But nobody was happy about the decision.
The escalating cost of the trail extension south to the Legacy Ranch and a lack of any matching funds in the budget to get it done led city staff to the decision last week.
A few council members said Tuesday that they wished they had more time to think it over as well as an opportunity to deliberate on the city's decision to not apply.
“I don't think we've heard all of the options and opportunities available on this,” council member Sonja Macys said.
Macys, however, was forced to step down from the conversation because a majority of her fellow council members perceived she had a conflict of interest as the director of Yampatika, which runs the Legacy Ranch that is proposed to be connected to the Core Trail.
Macys felt that wasn't a conflict because it was "laughable" to think that Yampatika would benefit financially from the Core Trail extension.
Macys and council member Tony Connell were critical of city staff's decision to not apply before having council deliberate about it this week.
City Manager Deb Hinsvark responded to the criticism by explaining the city simply did not have the $2.3 million in matching funds needed to go forward with the grant application project in the wake of the new lodging tax steering committee's decision to only recommend the project receive about 6 percent of the project cost.
“It was a tough decision,” Hinsvark said as she outlined how the cost of the project jumped from $1.7 million last year to the current $3.5 million because of a number of issues including the need for expensive bridges. “I don't have $2.3 million to hand you and say to go for this grant. We can't go ask for this grant.”
Tuesday's discussion of the Core Trail grant also spurred a short debate about the role of city funding to help accomplish the trails projects that are set to receive the backing of the lodging tax.
Eric Meyer, one of the leaders of the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance, said it was “tough” to see the city not move forward with a grant application it had a good chance of getting.
He also said the city should invest more from its own capital improvement budget toward trail and sidewalk projects.
Council member Kenny Reisman said the council should keep in mind that the overwhelming support for Referendum 2A and the trails projects was not a “mandate” for the city to spend from its own budget to leverage grants on the Core Trial or on any of the other 46 projects put forth by the Trails Alliance.
“The voters voted on spending lodging tax dollars on these trails,” Reisman said. “They did not vote to spend $2.3 million out of reserves that have built up” to get a grant for the Core Trail.
While the Core Trail grant spurred much discussion, the council easily voted to back another GOCO grant moments later.
The city is submitting an application for $105,000 worth of GOCO funding that would be used to improve the safety of the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10