City debates cost of SSWSC project outreach
City officials are looking for community outreach on the proposed Steamboat Winter Sports Club Air Awareness Strength and Conditioning facility.
The Parks and Recreation Commission recommended pursuing a request by SSWSC to negotiate a no-fee ground lease for the new facility at Howelsen Hill. In their recommendation, the commission advised Steamboat Springs City Council to pursue the project but after performing community outreach.
As described in the commission’s recommendation, the public outreach would involve soliciting public comment and providing education on the facility. The request to fund the outreach was included in a supplemental budget appropriation ordinance that City Council reviewed on May 17.
The cost of the outreach was estimated at $30,000, including $17,000 for marketing and $13,000 to pay seasonal staff.
“Would we do that for a private developer? Probably not. This is Winter Sports Club,” said Michael Buccino, who resisted the request out of worries of the precedent it might set for future projects, but also acknowledged that funding and conducting the outreach in-house would likely be the fastest and cheapest option.
Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby responded saying that city staff recommend the outreach to be done under the city’s purview to ensure accurate information.
“Whether Winter Sports Club pays the city to conduct (the outreach), or you want to use city general fund dollars, staff has no recommendation,” said Cosby.
Council member Heather Sloop said she supports the study, but doesn’t think the city should pay for it. She said she was worried that future project proposals would come with requests for the city to fund community outreach as well.
“This should not be a city line-item cost,” said Sloop.
Council member Dakotah McGinlay asked if the city had the staffing capacity to perform the outreach in-house, to which City Manager Gary Suiter said, ‘No.’
“We would have to make this a priority and drop other things,” said Cosby.
According to Cosby, the $30,000 price tag is less expensive compared to hiring a contractor, which would be standard practice, and would likely cost over $55,000 and take between six to nine months to get a contractor to come to town and start the process.
Suiter addressed the council members saying the city had done surveys with projects at Howelsen in the past, including scenarios with different options for the park labeled “A, B and C.”
“The community rejected all of them,” Suiter said, saying feedback from the community was generally “we don’t want to see these improvements, we want you to take care of what you have and improve what you have.”
Suiter assured City Council he and the city staff would work toward whatever path council chooses, including handling the outreach in-house.
“It’s been a couple years, but I think it would be diligent to go back and touch base with the community again and see if the community sentiment is the same,” Suiter said.
Council member Sloop motioned to approve the budget appropriation ordinance minus the $30,000 for community outreach. The motioned passed 4-3, with Sloop, West, Briones and McGinlay supporting omitting the outreach money, while the other three wanted to keep it in for now because it will be further reviewed during the second reading of the ordinance.
If the SSWSC facility is approved, the lease would be similar to the agreement between the city and the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center. Construction and ongoing costs would be paid for exclusively by SSWSC through their budget or donations, but the space itself wouldn’t cost anything in rent.
The new facility would be built over The Gazebo — Ninth Inning location at the base of Howelsen Hill. The facility would be about 12,000 square feet and could accommodate more than 100 athletes across multiple sports, according to SSWSC, while their current facility at Howelsen Hill has only enough space for 20 athletes.
In their project proposal, SSWSC describes the facility as having enough room to provide open space for other groups such as summer camps and the Boys and Girls Club.
According to SSWSC, about 45% of kids K-12 are enrolled in Winter Sports Club activities.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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