Steamboat School Board votes to not sign field house agreement

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— After months of discussion and dozens of hours poring over a public-private agreement, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted against approving the document that would have allowed two community members to go forth with raising donor money for a multi-million-dollar field house eventually to be built at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

In a 3-1 decision, the board decided to move on from community members Mark Lynch's and Kevin Sankey’s proposal to raise funds, seek bids and construct the indoor field house.

The board spent around 1 1/2 hours at Thursday night’s special meeting discussing the public-private agreement with Lynch and Sankey as well as culling input from about half of the nearly dozen community members in attendance.

But by the discussion’s end, the three board members who voted in favor of not signing the agreement — board President Roger Good, Scott Bideau and Joey Andrew — came to the consensus that the risks involved, especially the potential for the district to incur long-term financial responsibility, were too great.

“I love the idea. I absolutely love it,” Good said toward the tail end of the discussion. “The pluses and the minuses are still there. We’d have to make a decision based on risk.”

Andrew expressed concern looking 20 years down the road with adding district financial constraints with the potential of capital improvements being needed, a new elementary school being built or if another economic recession strikes.

“Is this an asset or liability for the district?” Andrew asked.

Lynch and Sankey — both visibly frustrated as the meeting wore on, and openly frustrated with how the process played out as a whole — argued that with the time the duo spent, and the hours the board had to hash through the agreement, Thursday was either go or no go.

“I’ve been defining this one way or another or negotiating it for a year,” Lynch told the board. “I came here tonight willing to accept one way or another.”

Robin Crossan was the only current board member holding a seat last August when Lynch first approached the board as well as in October when an almost completely different board approved the partners to go forth with fundraising efforts.

Crossan also was the lone board member Thursday to vote in favor of signing the public-private agreement.

“We will never know if it’s feasible to do this if we stop the contract tonight,” Crossan said. “Tonight is not the end-all. Tonight is the beginning of the phase, as far as I’m concerned.”

Crossan was referencing that had the board approved Lynch and Sankey to go into the next phase, the district wasn’t signing a binding agreement to construct the field house. Rather, it was approving Lynch and Sankey to contact donors to raise the estimated $6.5 million to $8 million project budget, and that the board would have three more times to back out of the process before construction started, according to the district’s attorney Mike Holloran.

Good estimated the board spent about 100 hours going through the public-private agreement, which spelled out details such as potential tenants paying member and user fees to fund daily operations, the appointment of a general manager to oversee the facility as well as what the district was expecting Lynch and Sankey to raise by June 1.

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Attorney Sherri Sweers was elected as the fifth member of the Steamboat Springs School Board at a special meeting Thursday night. Her first meeting will be Aug. 11.

School Board elects new board member

For the first time since former Steamboat Springs School Board President Rebecca Williams resigned June 16, the board is at full strength.

By a 3-1 vote at Thursday night’s special meeting, Sherri Sweers was elected to fill the vacancy and will serve on the board for her first meeting Aug. 11.

The board narrowed the four applicants down to Sweers and former board member Tami Havener.

In the seven prepared questions the board asked all four applicants during the interview process, Sweers — a Steamboat attorney — said she has heard serving on the board is a “rewarding position,” and one that is full of its successes and even its disappointments.

She cited curriculum development and enhancement as areas of change she would like to pursue in her time on the board.

Sweers’ term will expire in November 2015. Three other board seats will be up for election at that time.

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

Comments

Kelly Colfer 5 months ago

I find it unbelievable how fast good people become bureaucrats and eliminate common sense from their repertoire. A field house would have been such a great equalizer for mountain kids that have a difficult task competing in outdoor sports with front range kids that get 9 months of playing time. Worrying about what may or may not happen 20 years down the road when we have two guys willing to arrange financing for the construction??!!! What were you thinking, school board?!!!

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dana tredway 5 months ago

For the record, having attended the meeting, I don't believe the decision to stop this process was based on the financial questions surrounding this "gift". It was clear that everyone in the room knew this was a great idea, but it was in the wrong location and the school board should not be in the business of running a large commercial athletic facility in the end. The traffic issues raised and the need to ultimately gather public input regarding the location turned the tide of the discussion. If the issue had only been "will it work financially" I think it would have moved forward. Most of my concerns were addressed in that there was still ample opportunity to pull the plug before the project was a full go, however the writing was on the wall that this was never going to be a slam dunk just because is was a free building. I commend the board for making a really tough decision which appears shortsighted to those simply looking at this as a gift.

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Kieran O'Halloran 5 months ago

I use to be all for an indoor facility but do not think its a wise idea for the school district to have to run said facility. Being someone who had to practice baseball in parking lots at Howelsen Hill (taking a grounder off of asphalt teaches your really fast) I would have loved practicing indoors, but it would not have made us better. Steamboat is not a baseball town (Yeah we have triple crown but they only play tournaments here) nor is it a ___(insert any fair weather sport) town. Steamboat can not cater to everyone, nor every sport, plus look where we live! If a student (or adult) can not find something athletic to do in Routt County, then they won't do something athletic, which is fine. I think what the two men have done is amazing work, and maybe it could still happen as a private facility like the downtown pool or the gymnastics gym.

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Peter Kenney 5 months ago

Thank You Mark & Kevin for your efforts! Steamboat is so lucky to have two dedicated parents who on there own tried to create the one item our athletes in Steamboat desperately needed - A Field House! It it our lose and the athletes of Steamboat will pay the real price.

This would have been the only school building, for decades to come, that would have been built, paid for & used constantly.

I'm so sorry that OUR School Board wasted your time. Hopefully the members will spend a little time this Fall, Winter & Spring visiting the Middle Gym on the weekends to see it packed with Soccer players or swing by the parking lot at Emerald to see hundreds of Lacrosse players developing their skills on pavement. Swing by the High School turf at 9:00 - 10:00 on a school night and see the practices going on in the driving snow & sub-zero temperatures. Our kid's deserve and could have had better.

The Field Houses in Vail, Edwards, Aspen, Breckenridge are not "architectural marvels" They are warehouses built to withstand the snow load but serve one purposes - athletic development. We had this one shot to build our own, on State land, zero debt and decades of full time use.

Nice job School Board - you blew it. Too bad Ms. Sweers was not elected first - she would been able to find a way for the efforts of Mark & Kevin to have come to fruition. Pete

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Scott Wedel 5 months ago

I think the fundamental issue is that the school district is not responsible for providing space for the sports clubs and adult leagues.

Why wasn't this proposed to Parks and Rec?

With YVEA purchasing TIC's old hq then that makes two YVEA land purchases for possible HQ possibly available. YVEA owns about 20 acres across the road from the SB airport and owns the entire subdivision at the end of the road to nowhere (GG Parkway). Seems to me that those that want more parks and rec, and those that want to donate a lot of money could get together to propose a large recreational complex. I note both parcels have room for ball fields and parking so it could accommodate Triple Crown and other large events. That would have the huge advantage of freeing up local parks for locals as well.

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