Housing? Storm water? Steamboat City Council discusses where to spend $3M from federal government
Steamboat Springs will receive $3.3 million in direct funds as a result of the U.S. government passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier this year.
The money is meant in part to prop up local governments struggling from decreases in revenue caused by the pandemic, but Steamboat’s budget is in much better shape than most. City sales tax revenue in April was 30.27% higher compared to April 2019, and year-to-date sales tax collection is 16.69% more than year to date through April 2020.
Still, Steamboat relies heavily on sales tax dollars fueled by tourists, and COVID-19 put the city on a $39.4 million budget for 2021, which council members said was a conservative yet optimistic number.
While City Council has the ultimate say as to how the money will be spent, it is required to place it into one or more broad categories decided by the federal government. The categories include premium pay for essential workers, which include police officers and firefighters; direct public health expenses; lost revenues; negative economic consequences, such as lack of employee and workforce housing; and storm water, sewer and broadband.
City staff is recommending the city wait to allocate or appropriate federal funds until after the state has identified its full spending plan and rolled out grant opportunities, which could take up to a year.
Winnie DelliQuadri, city special projects and intergovernmental services manager, recommended council wait to spend money until the state has more information as the city could potentially receive grant money from the state and fund more projects than with just the federal funds.
Council members shared varying views of where the money should go during Tuesday discussion.
“Some of these projects, especially storm water and wastewater, are of the essence, and I don’t think they should wait any longer,” council member Heather Sloop said.
Council President Jason Lacy said the city should work with the county and major employers to help solve Steamboat’s affordable housing crisis.
“To me, this looks like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage a lot of dollars and have a serious impact on housing,” Lacy said. “This is a real opportunity to make the most meaningful difference the community has ever seen on that front.”
Council members Michael Buccino and Lisel Petis agreed. They added the city should prioritize building additional housing for its employees, as it has struggled to hire and retain staff due to a lack of housing options.
“I really feel like this is our opportunity to do something amazing for our community,” Petis said. “More housing for our employees is going to benefit the rest of our community.”
The city has housed its employees at Flour Mill Apartments, and Petis said the federal funding could give them an opportunity to house staff at Walton Village Condos.
While the city waits on the state, staff has recommended exploring further information on eligible projects.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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