City Council asks county commissioners to invest in downtown projects
July 25, 2015
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of County Commissioners isn’t convinced yet it should pitch in for infrastructure improvements in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Noting that it backed away from tax increment financing, a controversial financing tool, to pay for the improvements, the Steamboat Springs City Council recently asked the commissioners to consider making an investment in downtown projects that include such things as new sidewalks and a promenade on Yampa Street.
Council members made a case that the improvements are expected to raise property tax revenues, increase sales tax revenue and benefit the county’s coffers as well as the city’s.
Councilman Tony Connell said the city expects there will be a “success premium” that will happen downtown. He also pointed out that city residents provide about $15.5 million of the county’s budget.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan appeared most skeptical of the city’s request for downtown funding.
He said it would be hard to explain to his constituents in South Routt County why the county was making a cash investment in Steamboat’s downtown infrastructure.
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“Why wouldn’t we apply that same logic to Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa?” Corrigan asked. “Should we make cash investments in those communities?”
He also added the county will see increased demands on its services because of the improvement projects.
“I think you cannot ignore the countywide impact the visitors impose on our county,” Corrigan said, adding that increased traffic downtown will mean more people going out to use county roads and more people in jail.
Commissioner Doug Monger also appeared doubtful, but he told the council Tuesday that it wasn’t a “hell no” to the city’s proposal.
Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said if the city and county agreed on a baseline figure for tax revenues and the county did see some convincing evidence the improvements generated additional sales and property tax to the county, she would be open to the idea of an investment.
The City Council recently 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 by the end of 2018.
The $10.3 million list of improvements will be funded with a combination of grants, sidewalk assessments, franchise fees, certificates of participation and reserves from the city’s general fund.