Highlights from 1st reading of city of Steamboat Springs’ 2014 budget | SteamboatToday.com

Highlights from 1st reading of city of Steamboat Springs’ 2014 budget

Scott Franz

— The Steamboat Springs City Council cruised through a budget of millions throughout eight hours in Centennial Hall on Tuesday.

Although some recent budget years have been dominated by talks of potential cuts and belt tightening, the latest round took on a new tone as the council debated budget enhancements that include the proposed market pay raises for city employees.

If you missed the meeting, here are a few of the highlights.

Health insurance changes coming

Anticipating a $200,000 increase in health insurance costs next year, the city plans to make a substantial change to how its employees pay for insurance.

For the first time, employees and the City Council members who have insurance from the city will be asked to pay an additional $50 per month toward their plans.

Currently, employees pay only some of the coverage for their dependents and spouses to be on the plan.

The city said if the employees’ market pay raises are approved, no employees will see a negative impact to his or her salary because of the insurance increase.

Clay courts get delayed, again

Concerned about the rising cost to subsidize the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, the council for the second year in a row voted to delay funding for a clay resurfacing project at the center.

“My concern in particular is last year the aggregate subsidy (for the center) was $130,000, and this year it’s $174,000,” council member Cari Hermacinski said. “We gave (city staff) direction years ago to start making those types of facilities as self-sustaining as possible.”

The city subsidizes several of its recreational facilities, including the Howelsen Ice Arena, Howelsen Hill Ski Area and the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

Hermacinski and other council members would like the city to determine what rates the Tennis Center would have to charge to make it operate without any subsidy from the city.

After discussing the Tennis Center and the future of other properties such as the Iron Horse Inn, council member Sonja Macys proposed the city develop an asset management plan that covers all of the city-owned facilities.

“How do we fund these things, and if we can’t, how do we get rid of them?” she asked.

The discussion on the Tennis Center will head to the city’s volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission as soon as this month.

The delay of capital funding for the facility comes a year after the council voted unanimously to award a new three-year contract to Jim Swiggart to continue to operate the center.

Less than a month after the contract was signed, the council voted for the first time to delay the resurfacing project that was estimated to cost $250,000 over several years.

Swiggart was disappointed.

“The Tennis Center is 20 years old, and although it won facility of the year in 2011, like all of the city assets, it has to be maintained,” Swiggart said last year. “We have a clay court that very well may have to be shut down unless it’s maintained, and it’s really sad they took that capital money out of the budget.”

Parked projects list released

Ever wonder about all the capital projects on which the city thinks it cannot afford to embark right now?

Included in the city’s 2014 budget is an updated list of these projects ranked as first and secondary priorities.

First priority projects include such things as improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road along with $8.1 million in infrastructure improvements on Yampa Street.

The parked projects list was released as council spent some time talking about the projects included in its six-year capital improvement program.

The list is highlighted by a new police station.

Council member Sonja Macys again made a motion to postpone the project, but her effort was supported only by fellow council member Hermacinski.

The city is expected to return to council with the latest police station locations in December.

Chamber talks future plans

Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern updated the council on the early planning for a possible Labor Day concert series in 2014.

He started by talking about the need for a new large-scale event in Steamboat.

“From the first day I got here, (the community) has been asking me when I’m going to bring back the vintage car races,” Kern said. “It’s not possible to do it in the community without cutting off access to people’s homes.

He said a music venue emerged as the greatest opportunity to try to attract 5,000 to 10,000 people to Steamboat on Labor Day weekend.

The event is envisioned to be a partnership between the Chamber, Steamboat Ski Area and the city.

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

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