Recovery funds stir debate at city council
American Recovery Plan Act has $3.3 million available for Steamboat Springs, but there’s a question over how that money should be encumbered
Amid a robust stream of tax revenue, Steamboat Springs is receiving another financial boost of $3.3 million.
Half of the funds from the American Recovery Plan Act were released to the city last summer. The other half will soon be made available to Steamboat Springs and local governments nationwide.
The amount allocated to each municipality is based on population and meant to supplement lost revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, May 3, city council discussed how to spend the money. City staff recommended using it on a big-ticket, one-time project that the city planned to build anyway.
Council members entertained the idea of using the money for deferred maintenance projects around town, which would include work at the transit center, Howelson Hill, and Haymaker Golf Course, among others.
However, city staff warned against spreading the money between too many different projects because staying in compliance with federal guidelines requires ongoing reporting for each project utilizing federal funds.
“We would need a team of people to do that,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s special projects and intergovernmental services manager.
The deferred maintenance projects list is three pages long, and the estimated costs of the projects range from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands. The total estimated cost of all the deferred maintenance projects is $2.4 million.
For Steamboat’s ARPA funding, city staff recommended using the money on the new city hall. The project could absorb the whole $3.3 million and already has the city’s commitment, and is planned to be completed before the end of 2026.
The deadline for the city to commit its ARPA funds is the end of 2024, while the deadline to spend the money is the end of 2026.
The new city hall is being built on 10th Street, and will share a campus with a new fire station. The project is budgeted for $6.5 million, so it could soak up the entirety of the ARPA funds while only requiring ongoing reporting to the federal government for the one project.
Construction is planned to start in 2023, so staff was confident the funds would be encumbered and spent before the deadlines.
Also, paying the $3.3 million up front instead of financing would save the city between $900,000 and $1 million in interest payments over 20 years, according to the city’s finance director Kim Weber.
Because the new city hall is being built one way or another, the logic was that whatever money from the general fund that would have otherwise gone toward the new city hall can instead be used for other projects, but without ongoing reporting to the federal government.
City council members were open to the idea of using the funding for the new city hall, but they wanted to entertain other ideas as well. Council member Gail Garey said she would like to discuss using the funds on child care.
“I understand that it might not be wrapped as nicely in a bow as city hall, but I do think that it’s something that we should consider,” Garey said.
Council member Heather Sloop said she would like to discuss using the funds for transit projects such as the new intersection at Downhill Drive and U.S. Highway 40.
DelliQuadri responded, saying that while those other uses are viable options, the timelines of those projects are less clear than the timeline for the new city hall.
Plans for a new child care facility are still in their infancy, while construction for the Downhill Drive intersection is tentatively scheduled for 2026. However, the Downhill Drive intersection project has been delayed largely due to uncertainty over how it will be funded.
In the end, city council directed city staff to emphasize deferred maintenance projects in the 2023 budget, and to make a report on the Downhill Drive intersection project for comparison in further discussions over how to direct ARPA funds.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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