Steamboat City Council pulls trigger on downtown improvement plan | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council pulls trigger on downtown improvement plan

A sketch shows an improved streetscape in front of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The Steamboat Springs City Council gave initial approval to a list of downtown projects worth $10.3 million.

— Tired of seeing the plans for a promenade, sidewalks and other basic downtown improvements collecting dust on shelves for decades, the Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday night pulled the trigger on the biggest investment in the downtown corridor in many years.

The financing package approved by council will construct millions of dollars worth of new sidewalks, public restrooms and other basic infrastructure downtown by the end of 2018.

The council agreed to pay for the $10.3 million list of improvements by using a combination of grants, sidewalk assessments, franchise fees, certificates of participation and reserves from the city’s general fund.

To get the projects rolling next year, the city plans to issue $4 million in certificates of participation — a form of debt similar to bonds that are sold to investors.

Another $3.5 million will come from the city’s general fund reserves.

The city’s annual payment during the 20-year term of the certificates of participation is estimated to be $292,000.

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The council also would like Routt County to contribute $1 million to the downtown projects because of the additional sales and property tax revenue the projects are projected to generate.

Some of the downtown projects that have been proposed by city staff will be dependent on annual funding allocations made by future city councils.

“It’s really exciting that after more than a year of work by this council, and discussions in the community over the last 30 years, these investments are moving forward,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

Sonja Macys was the only council member to vote no on the proposed financing plan.

She said she was not anti-downtown or against the projects but felt the council should spend more time looking at the prioritization of the city’s six-year capital improvement program before moving forward.

The approval of the downtown financing plan came weeks after the council rejected a controversial proposal to create a new urban renewal plan area and use tax increment financing to fund the projects.

While the council has debated for months how to fund an overhaul of downtown, it remained unanimous in its resolve to push the projects forward.

Council member Tony Connell said the downtown projects will produce the biggest return on investment of any project the city has undertaken.

“It’s a difference maker between us and other communities,” Connell said of downtown.

While the council will have control over which projects move forward in the coming years, a proposed timeline from city staff gives the public an idea of how the work could proceed.

In 2016, staff is proposing to complete an overhaul of Yampa Street by adding new sidewalks and a promenade, under-grounding utilities and raising two intersections to promote pedestrian safety.

Oak Street would also see new sidewalks next year.

In 2017, side streets would see a range of sidewalk work, and a new restroom would be added at Eagle Scout Park.

Finally, in 2018, the city would finish some sidewalks on Oak and 13th streets and install a restroom and amphitheater in West Lincoln Park.

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