Locals hope to rescue Emerald City | SteamboatToday.com

Locals hope to rescue Emerald City

Avi Salzman

— With the city unable or unwilling to fund the lease for Emerald City next year, a group of concerned residents and local philanthropic groups are getting together to try to foot the bill and come up with a long-term home for the city’s youth programs.

“The youth in our community indicated to us that they did not feel important,” said Yampa Valley Community Foundation President Dianna Sutton. “In response to that there was a group of citizens that came forward to try to demonstrate to the kids that they did have value to our community.

“It is important for the kids to have a place as much as a program.”

The best-case scenario for the Emerald City building on 11th Street will probably be eight months of life support, with the city ready to move the program into the modulars next to the ice arena by September once the new arena is completed. Offices now housed in the modulars will be moved into the arena.

That would give the city a secure city-owned property for its youth after-school programs, said Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson.

Emerald City offers after-school and days-off programs as well as substance-free parties at the Dock and the Underground for middle school and high school students.

Sutton has dreams for the youth programs beyond the modulars. She said the city and community groups have been looking at the idea of building or renovating a recreation center in the next few years.

The move to save Emerald City on a temporary basis was pushed by concerned parents and residents with the help of City Councilman Paul Strong and City Manager Paul Hughes. The Steamboat School District has also helped out, Wilson said.

The solution may come about through a process of re-granting community groups that usually get funds from the city may be sending some money back the city’s way. The Human Resource Coalition, the community foundation and the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club (which receives no city money) all may give grants to the city to save the building for eight months.

The City Council still has the option to pay for the lease when it revisits the 2002 budget next month, but city officials, after already cutting $1.4 million from an already-slim budget, have repeatedly said the city has no money to spend on Emerald City. The staff and program costs about $62,000 this year will still be funded by the city, but where the programs will be held is still up for question.

Councilman Loui Antonucci, who ran advertisements during his election campaign suggesting he would be able to help save the facility, was hesitant to make any promises. He said he was reticent to make claims when he has only one vote but added he would do his best to get it back in the budget.

The city’s dilemma came about because the owner of the building offered a lease renewal for about three times what the city had been paying, Wilson said. By the time the owner lowered his rate, the city could not afford it.

The city currently pays $30,000 to rent out the 4,000-square-foot facility, a cost way under market value, Wilson said.

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