Snowmelt a hot topic |

Snowmelt a hot topic

Council to mull recommendation to abandon geothermal system

Brandon Gee

Construction workers Sargio Vero, foreground, and Martin Valdez work on a walkway at Ski Time Square on Monday afternoon. The City Council will convene as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority tonight to discuss construction at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

A proposed geothermal snowmelt system at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area is expected to be a hot topic when the Steamboat Springs City Council convenes tonight as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority.

In its role as the Redevelopment Authority, the council will hear updates on base area construction and consider recommendations from an advisory committee. One of those recommendations will be to abandon one of the council’s priorities for the base area: a geothermal-powered snowmelt system that would be used primarily to melt snow on a promenade spanning the bottom of the ski slope, roughly from One Steamboat Place to Slopeside Grill. Construction of the promenade is scheduled to begin in 2009.

At a cost of $110,000, the city searched for sources of geothermal activity near the base area with no promising results. Additional exploration would cost $300,000, with no guarantee of success. The Redevelopment Authority’s advisory committee voted unanimously Oct. 12 to abandon the search for a direct geothermal source of heating for a snowmelt system. Other snowmelt options likely would require the use of a gas-fired boiler, which raises pollution concerns and contradicts the council’s goals in using a geothermal system.

At an advisory committee meeting Oct. 12, mechanical engineering consultant Dan Koelliker suggested the city abandon snowmelt altogether in favor of traditional methods such as plowing.

“It would tickle me not to see snowmelt here,” Koelliker said. “The carbon footprint is tremendous.”

Council members Towny Anderson and Karen Post said a geothermal snowmelt system had been a major priority, but they acknowledged that it may not be feasible.

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“I think we need to get the report from Joe (Kracum) and ask him the right questions about the exploration and funds,” Anderson said. “But we knew it was a risk that we wouldn’t find the supply of hot water we were working for.”

Project Coordinator Joe Kracum said base area construction is on time and under budget, despite the weekend’s snowstorm.

“It’s always difficult working when the weather’s not good,” Kracum said. “We’ll just have to work harder.”

Regular meeting

The second reading of the 2008 budget will highlight City Council’s regular meeting tonight. City Manager Alan Lanning said he expects the budget to pass with little discussion, though council likely will reconsider a $10,000 request from Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Lanning said City Council requested that the school’s financial statements be included in their preparation packets for the meeting. The school would use the funds to pay for a 95th anniversary celebration. Council members decided to deny the request during initial budget talks after interim Finance Director Bob Litzau told them the school had unrestricted reserves of $2.6 million. That number – which is confirmed in financial statements submitted by the school – included assets such as land and buildings.

School officials said Litzau’s report misled council members by including assets and contend the school has little cash on hand.

“A lot of pressure was brought to bear,” Lanning said. “I expect them to discuss that issue independently.”