Free Summer Concert Series funding cut doesn’t sit well with some City Council members

Scott Franz
Steamboat Springs residents attend the free summer concert featuring Michael Franti and Spearhead on July 18, 2008, at Howelsen Hill.
Courtesy Photo

— A drop in city funding for the hyper-popular Free Summer Concert Series was hard for some Steamboat Springs City Council members to stomach Tuesday night.

But a majority of the council agreed that although the cut was “disappointing,” it should respect the city’s extensive grant vetting process that led to the cut and not invest any more city dollars in the series this year.

The council feared that if it gave some more money to the concert series, other nonprofits that receive money from the city annually after a competitive grant vetting process would question their own funding totals and then lobby the council directly for more dollars like the concert series did Tuesday night.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said. “And when you play in the world of the government and the public, sometimes it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.”

The concert series is one 39 local nonprofits that will get a piece of a $388,320 grant this year from the city.

Committees of impartial community volunteers recently spent several hours evaluating and grading all the requests from the nonprofits to decide how much money each should get from the city.

As a result of this process, the concert series was awarded $15,000, half of the $30,000 it was requesting from the city. The concert series received $23,000 in community support funding from the city last year.

In 2015, the concert series was one of 24 nonprofits to not receive the full amount of funding it was seeking.

Coleman Cook, the president of the concert series’ board of directors, told the council that his board could not support the recommendation for the reduced funding.

He talked about the positive impact the series has had on the city and requested more funding.

“I’m definitely biased, but I think the Free Summer Concert Series is truly a unique giveback to our community,” he said. “We serve 25,000 people every summer with five free shows for the last 23 years. I mean, that is impressive.”

He said the concert series pays the city more than $9,300 per year to rent out the venue at Howelsen Hill and pays for police officers, permits and electricity.

Council member Kenny Reisman led a push to get the concert series more funding this year.

“I see the impact it has on the community, and to have that (funding) drop so precipitously, I struggle with that,” Reisman said.

Reisman and Tony Connell voted against the funding recommendations for the nonprofits because of the reduced funding for the Free Concert Series.

After the funding was passed by the council, Reisman proposed that the city provide an additional $8,000 to the concert series coming from the contingency budgets of the council and the city manager.

The vote failed, 3-4. Reisman, Connell and Walter Magill supported the motion, while Kounovsky, Scott Myller, Sonja Macys and Scott Ford opposed it.

Mical Hutson, who presided over the grant vetting process for nonprofits in the arts and culture world, told the council there were a number of reasons the grant committee did not give the Free Summer Concert Series the amount of money it was seeking.

She said some committee members thought the grant request was poorly written, and the concert series did not raise funding as much as other nonprofits that were competing for funding.

The concert series’ board of directors took offense to that assessment, saying it regularly raises funds.

“We all fundraise really hard,” board member Joe Kboudi said, adding fundraising accounted for 35 to 40 percent of the concert series’ budget.

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

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