Steamboat Springs’ list of parked capital projects totals more than $128 million | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs’ list of parked capital projects totals more than $128 million

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic coach Todd Wilson attaches sections of plastic to the new year-round ski jumps at Howelsen Hill in 2012. The city's current list of parked capital projects totals $128 million and includes such projects as the rehomologation of jumps on Howelsen Hill and major highway upgrades.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a cost estimate for a renovation of the exterior of the Tennis Center that was listed as a potential project on the city’s parked projects list. The $3.7 million cost on the list was determined to be inaccurate.

Steamboat Springs residents soon could be called on to help prioritize a long and growing list of the city's capital improvement projects that range from playground replacements to major improvements of highways.

The two-page list, deemed the city's "parked projects" list, is worth more than $128 million and contains more than 70 potential projects for which the city does not currently have funding.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said Thursday that the point of maintaining and updating the long list of projects each year is to be "ever mindful" of future needs.

"I think the community needs to start talking about this," Hinsvark said.

The list is separated into two categories, one of first-priority projects and another deemed second priority.

A project that would widen U.S. Highway 40 west of 13th Street to four lanes and improve curbs and gutters carries a price tag of $23 million.

There’s $15 million worth of sidewalk improvements, $250,000 for transit shelter improvements and $3.2 million of water main upgrades and replacements.

Some projects, such as a 9,000-square-foot expansion at the Howelsen Ice Arena, could be considered wants.

Others, such as the $3.2 million worth of water main upgrades and replacements, someday will be needs.

Hinsvark said this relatively young city is at an important phase of its history in which several pieces of key infrastructure are in need of renovation and replacement, and the community needs to decide how it wants to go about meeting future capital needs.

"The community can help us prioritize," Hinsvark said.

She said the mechanism for involving the community in the prioritization of the list of capital needs hasn’t been settled on yet, but she acknowledged that some other communities have formed advisory committees to help undertake such tasks.

It’s a discussion Hinsvark and the Steamboat Springs City Council could start to have as soon as the upcoming budget season in the fall.

The growing list of capital projects factored heavily in Hinsvark’s first state of the city report in which she suggested Steamboat may need a new source of revenue to fund future capital projects.

Capital projects in the city currently rely mostly on funding from grants and building-use and excise taxes that are generated from development.

Most other cities rely on the collection of property taxes to fund capital projects.

"Considering the appetite of the city and regional residents for amenities and services and the need to take care of what we have and to increase services caused by organic growth, the city's ability to meet the needs with the current revenue base will at some point prove insufficient," Hinsvark concluded in her report.

The parked project list is a work in progress, with city staff still coming forward with new projects to add.

A number of factors ranging from grant opportunities to how critical a project is to public safety determine which projects stay on the parked list and which ones come off each year, Finance Director Kim Weber said.

One of the more recent projects to come off and receive funding was the replacement of the bucking chutes and other infrastructure at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

The need to improve the safety of the facility was a driving factor along with available grant funding and fundraising pledges from the Rodeo Board.

A new police station, which headlines the city’s current six-year capital improvement program that includes $48 million worth of projects, also came off the parked list after being on it for years.

Asked about the impact of the list, council President Bart Kounovsky said it’s a list the city needs to keep updated.

He said as the city comes out of the Great Recession, everyone is "hopeful revenue will rise at the city" and it can decide which projects can be funded after taking a hard look at them.

"I will say that right now, there doesn’t need to be a change in the way we fund capital projects, there just needs to be a vigorous city council and community debate about which (projects) rise off that list and into the six-year plan and which don’t," Kounovsky said.

Other council members have talked in recent months about the need to look at long-term capital plans.

With funding decisions to make each year about such amenities as the Tennis Center, council member Sonja Macys has called for the city to develop a comprehensive asset management plan.

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