City Council discusses Howelsen Hill agreement behind closed doors
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council met with its attorney and parks and recreation director behind closed doors for 90 minutes Monday afternoon to seek legal opinions and discuss possible changes to the joint use agreement the city has had for many years with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club at Howelsen Hill.
Immediately after the executive session, the council announced, without taking any motion or having public discussion, it had selected councilwomen Heather Sloop and Robin Crossan to work with city staff to negotiate a potential new supplemental agreement with the Winter Sports Club regarding the usage of Howelsen.
By taking the supplemental approach, the council would not completely replace the 28-year-old legal document that has guided the city’s relationship with the Winter Sports Club at the historic ski hill.
Rather, it would seek to better define terms of the contract and outline the city’s maintenance responsibilities.
Council President Walter Magill said the council has decided on several items it wants to potentially address with a new supplemental agreement.
The items include such things as defining public skiing hours and defining what catastrophic repairs are.
Asked why the council felt it needed to meet in private to discuss the public joint use agreement, Magill said the council was seeking opinions from City Attorney Dan Foote that the council did not want disclosed publicly.
“We were asking our attorney to give us his opinion of (the Winter Sports Club’s) attorney’s opinion,” Magill said.
The council also cited the need to discuss items that may be subject to negotiation as a reason to enter executive session.
Legal counsel for the Winter Sports Club has advised the club not to agree to any changes to the existing joint use agreement because it could harm the club and prevent the city from making the kinds of multi-year financial commitments to Howelsen that are outlined in the current agreement.
Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne has told the council the club’s attorney believes a new agreement would be subject to new state laws that prevent multi-year financial agreements.
Magill said another opinion the council sought on Tuesday was what would happen if the council hypothetically took a hard line and sought to replace the joint use agreement altogether.
Magill said the council resolved during the executive session to host future meetings about the joint use agreement in public and not behind closed doors.
Some City Council members have been pushing for a new joint use agreement with the Winter Sports Club that aims to limit the city’s financial risk on such things as maintenance and operating costs.
Council members Heather Sloop, Scott Ford and Tony Connell have at previous meetings expressed a desire to draft a new agreement with the Winter Sports Club that limits the city’s financial risks.
The current agreement mandates that the city maintains the ski area.
Sloop recently told the Steamboat Today she had changed her position on the joint use agreement issue and is “looking for solutions for both parties.”
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It is going to be a hot week in Steamboat Springs.