Steamboat School Board votes to not sign field house agreement | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat School Board votes to not sign field house agreement

Ben Ingersoll

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.

— 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.

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"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.

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

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