New Steamboat Springs City Council will be tasked with improving strained relationships with other elected officials
New city leaders will be tasked with improving relationships with other boards
Steamboat Springs — Candidates running to be a part of a new Steamboat Springs City Council majority are promising to bring more cooperation to Citizens Hall in the wake of some tension between the current council and other elected officials and community groups.
The paths the new council chooses to take could have serious consequences on issues ranging from the future of Howelsen Hill to the construction of a new high school.
In recent months, there has been some friction between the council and city staff and the Steamboat Springs School Board, Routt County commissioners and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club over a number of big community issues.
In the spring, the school board and the county came out against a city proposal to use tax increment financing to fund millions of dollars worth of downtown improvements.
Some school board members were highly critical of the council during public meetings to discuss the issue.
Last week, tension resurfaced when the City Council came out against the school board’s $92 million school bond proposal.
School district staff and school board members felt blindsided when the council voted unanimously to voice its opposition to the bond issue because of a concern the new high school would leave the city on the hook for costly road improvements in the area.
No school board members or district staff were invited to the meeting to address the council’s concerns.
Immediatley after the vote, school district officials and city officials blamed each other for a lack of outreach and collaboration prior to council’s vote against the bond.
Former Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham called the lack of collaboration between the city and the school district “shocking.”
Speaking at an election forum last week, some city council candidates expressed disappointment with the way the council and the school board have been interacting in recent months.
Asked specifically about their strategy to work with the school board in the wake of the council’s vote against the bond, candidate Michael Buccino suggested the current council tries to make its decisions too quickly.
“The problem with this current council is they make their decisions at that meeting, and they have 10 minutes to come up with it,” Buccino said. “Work sessions would have solved that better. We should say ‘time out, let’s back this up a little bit and let’s work together as a team.'”
Jason Lacy, who is running against Buccino in District 1, said the council needs to work collaboratively with community partners and keep lines of communication open “regardless of how any of us feel about the school bond issue or anything else that’s going on in our community.”
“We can never take the tact that we try to cut off debate, cut off communication and not talk with our neighbors and friends, because if that’s the way we do business, we won’t solve the issues in this community, and we won’t move it forward in a positive way,” Lacy said.
The council’s opposition to the bond issue followed a contentious couple of months between the school board and the council over the city’s controversial proposal to use tax increment financing to fund new sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements in the city’s downtown commercial district.
The school board believed the plan, which the council ultimately passed over, would negativley impact the district.
Some council members felt the school board members were unfairly and wrongly portraying the city as trying to take money from the schools and students.
The city council’s relationship with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, a longtime community partner, has also come into the spotlight recently.
Jim Boyne, executive director of the Sports Club, recently called on the council to think more strategically about the future of Howelsen Hill.
He was critical about the city’s recent level of commitment to maintaining and improving the facilities at the hill.
Council member Kenny Reisman said last week that before the new council sits down to talk about the future of Howelsen, it should first focus on improving the relationship with the Sports Club.
“I hope before you (new council members) even start scratching what happens on that hill, we have to figure out how to get a better working relationship with our main user group there, which is the Sports Club, which has a huge impact on our community,” Reisman said.
“Obviously, they are feeling neglected in some capacity,” Reisman continued. “And, you know, we have feelings of here’s our dollars and how much can we give, and both (concerns) are real legitimate. I hope that this relationship gets addressed before there is too much damage done.”
The current council has made serious headway in collaborating with Routt County to construct a shared public safety facility next to the Routt County Jail.
All 11 city council candidates say they would support this vision and will continue the collaboration.
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