Base area opinions abound in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Base area opinions abound in Steamboat

Council’s discussions of financing, construction choices continue

Mike Lawrence

— Steamboat Springs City Council members have their work cut out for them today as they weigh whether to move forward with a project that could stimulate business and future tourism, while also balancing how to safeguard city coffers for an uncertain future.

The City Council convenes shortly after 5 p.m. today in Centennial Hall as the Steam­boat Springs Redevelopment Authority, which administers redevelopment at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. On the agenda is a review of financial projections and lending scenarios provided by city Finance Director Deb Hinsvark. Also planned for today is a discussion of four construction options: moving forward with as much as $2.5 million of work this summer while finding a new financing agreement; postponing the project and using that amount to lessen the city's indebtedness; beginning scaled-down work while negotiations continue with U.S. Bank; or postponing the project while keeping the funds on hand.

Last week, the committee guiding base area redevelopment supported a partial plan for this summer's work. The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend about $2.2 million in spending on earthwork, utilities, a temporary gravel trail, snowmelt mains and other items that would provide few public amenities but would set the stage for future, more aesthetically appealing work when funding is available. Committee members expressed confidence in base area revenue streams and future funding for the project.

Councilman Walter Magill didn't share URAAC's sentiment Monday.

"Their optimism is understood, but again, I agree that it's not a necessary construction project for this year," Magill said, supporting recent comments made by City Council President Cari Hermacinski, who called redevelopment a "want" rather than a "need" in the recessionary economy.

Councilman Jon Quinn, however, said it's time to put shovels in the ground.

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"I think it's in our best interest to move forward with that work — we've got a good price on it right now, we're putting a lot of people to work by spending that money … and the work has got to get done," he said. "The numbers I've seen make me very comfortable with the base area valuations. … I think for right now, the most prudent course of action is to keep moving ahead."

The full $4.5 million base area project planned for this year includes partial construction of a public promenade, the daylighting of Burgess Creek and installation of numerous amenities such as seating areas, stone walls and fire features.

City Council voted May 7 to release $2.5 million in funding for base area work this summer. That vote followed lengthy city negotiations with U.S. Bank, which issued the city a default notice in April on its $17.5 million redevelopment loan. Earlier this month, the bank removed the default conditions and agreed to the immediate use of $2.5 million, provided that the remainder of this year's funds, also about $2.5 million, be held in a construction account.

Financial philosophies likely will guide tonight's discussion about how to proceed.

"I think we're going to be pretty careful — we'd all like to see the project go forward, and I don't know if that's going to happen," Councilman Jim Engelken said Monday. "We need to approach this with a conservative perspective. I have not made my mind up whether I support the recommendation of URAAC or not."

If you go

What: Meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council, acting as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to administer base area redevelopment

When: 5:05 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Contact: Call city offices at 970-879-2060 or visit http://steamboatsprings.net for more information.

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