Steamboat City Council debates whether to foot bill for downtown holiday lights | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council debates whether to foot bill for downtown holiday lights

Holiday lights grace downtown Steamboat Springs in February as traffic moves along Lincoln Avenue.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council won't be the grinch that stole funding from the downtown holiday lights.

But some council members appeared reluctant this week to foot the $18,000 bill for the holiday ambiance next year because they felt downtown business owners should start paying for the lights instead.

"After we spend $11 million (on downtown improvements) and we're going to start hauling off this snow (on Yampa Street), they can't come up with any money to supply lights in their own neighborhood?" Council President Walter Magill asked of the downtown business and property owners. "I'm getting dismayed with these business owners …retail is tough . . . but $18,000 isn't a ton of money, and we're just asking them to split it."

Magill voted in favor of a budget that would not have included the extra funding for the holiday lights for the 2018-19 winter season.

Kathi Meyer also questioned why the city was continuing to fund the downtown holiday lights when she thought the city's elected officials made it clear last year that the merchants and property owners needed to start pitching in instead.

Meyer said she would support putting more money back in the budget for the city's bus service, but she was having trouble giving the funding to Main Street Steamboat for the holiday lights.

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But after Main Street Executive Director Lisa Popovich explained how hard it would be for her organization to raise money for the lights, Meyer later joined five other council members to keep the holiday light funding in the city budget for another year.

The council decided to cut $20,000 of special event funding instead.

While the light funding was spared another year, some council members wanted to make it clear that the money would go away in the future if downtown property owners next year fail to agree to a tax increase to help pay for downtown maintenance and upkeep.

"If the (business improvement district) is not formed (and funded), it goes away," City Manager Gary Suiter said of the funding. "That would be a compelling reason for a business improvement district."

Popovich agreed that it was time for the downtown business and property owners to tax themselves to help pay for such things as the lights. But she said the process will take time, and she didn't want a funding cut from the city to spoil the chances of getting the tax increase passed.

A vote is likely to occur next year on whether to fund the business improvement district.

"I would hate to see something as small as the lights jeopardize something that would help in a more meaningful way," Popovich said. "We are gaining momentum (for the business improvement district). We are getting support."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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