Steamboat seeks to fund part of Howelsen lift with accommodations tax revenue

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s budget season, and Steamboat Springs City Council took its first glimpse at budgets for upcoming capital improvement projects last week.

City Council will discuss the 2020 budget in an all-day work session on Tuesday, Oct. 1. The final budget will go before council twice more before it can be approved on second reading, so there could be changes between what’s proposed and what’s passed in the coming months.

Howelsen Hill

City Council members directed staff to contribute to Howelsen Hill’s long awaited chairlift replacement using accommodations tax revenue. The city and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club are expected to share the cost of the chair, though ongoing negotiations between the city and Steamboat Resort about operations of Howelsen could pull the ski area into the picture as well.

Ballot measures previously approved by voters designate $660,000 of accommodations tax revenue to trail building and marketing of trails included in the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance proposal. In recent years, the city has brought in about $1.1 million in revenue, meaning that some of that revenue has been designated to other projects. As of March, there was $1,193,688 from accommodations tax reserves available for other projects.

That money has previously been dedicated to Old Town Hot Spring’s expansion and efforts to build a second sheet of ice at Howelsen Ice Arena, though the ice arena project fell through.

Several City Council members expressed support for the idea, though Council Member Lisel Petis said she anticipated that public feedback might not be so supportive, as “people want it for other things.”

“No matter what we do, if we initiate a process to have a lot more asks, we’re going to disappoint a lot of people no matter what,” said Council President Jason Lacy, referring to community interest in using accommodations tax revenue for other projects.

A new fire station

City Council directed staff to transfer $1.5 million from the general fund to its capital projects budget to pay for a portion of a new fire station in the area of downtown Steamboat.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, the city and the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District are still determining where the new station would go and how to fund its construction.

Based on previous conversations, the city and fire district will share the cost of building the station. The station is expected to cost between $1.1 million to $4.1 million depending on the new location.

Other projects

The city plans to fund 32 capital projects in the next six years. For some projects, that means the city has budgeted for construction by 2025. In other cases, the city will fund design work and preparations to prepare a project for eventual construction.

City Council also directed staff to transfer an additional $1.5 million from the general fund to the capital improvement fund in 2020, which will allow the city to fund eight additional projects.

The city’s ten highest priority capital projects this budget cycle include:

  • Painting and decking three Yampa River Core Trail bridges
  • Rehabilitating the Steamboat Springs Airport runway
  • Completing sidewalks along Lincoln Avenue from West Lincoln Park to Elk River Road
  • New finance software
  • Replacing the Barrows Lift on Howelsen Hill
  • Refurbishing six Steamboat Springs Transit buses
  • Replacing a Steamboat Spring’s Transit regional bus
  • Erosion improvements along the Yampa River
  • An additional women’s locker room and youth programming space in Howelsen Ice Arena
  • Paving the Howelsen Hill Rodeo Grounds parking lot

More information about all 32 projects, including funding partners, specific costs and timelines, can be found here.

To view the City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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