Walgreens will pay Steamboat after not enforcing tube fee

Tubers float down the Yampa River earlier in the summer. Walgreens is having to pay the city of Steamboat Springs after not enforcing the required $5 fee on plastic tube purchases.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Walgreens has agreed to pay the city of Steamboat Springs $3,760 after not enforcing the $5 fee on plastic tubes the Steamboat Springs City Council enacted in February.

The agreement comes as a result of negotiations between Steamboat Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Bock and Walgreens General Counsel Andrew Marks.

The amount includes $3,690, which is what Walgreens should have collected on the 738 tubes it sold at its Steamboat location. That money will go to the city’s Yampa River Fund, which supports education, cleanups and other projects that benefit river health.

Other businesses that charged the appropriate tube fee and the amount collected during the tubing season included: Ace Hardware, $880; Boomerang Sports Exchange, $595; Christy Sports, $4,160; Walmart, $5,525; Ski Haus, $355; and Switchback Sports. $190. In all, the stores generated $11,705 for the river fund.

Walgreens did not respond to several requests for comment from Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Bock said the city learned Walgreens was not collecting the tube fee earlier in the summer, and the city attorney’s office served the store with a citation of ordinance.

“That got their attention pretty fast,” Bock said.

From there, Bock worked with the store’s corporate office to settle the issue, and both parties agreed to have Walgreens pay the city the money it owed without needing to take the issue to court.

“They didn’t comply initially, but they came on board very quickly,” said Angela Cosby, Steamboat Parks and Recreation director, who recommended City Council pass the tube fee. “They’ve essentially corrected that wrong, and they did that without collecting from their customers.”

Cosby said she believes it was an honest mistake on Walgreens’ part.

“I can understand why the change didn’t take place instantly and why it had to run up the corporate ladder to get those changes made,” Cosby said. “As far as how quickly they complied with it, it was more of just everyone being over their heads from COVID, lack of staffing and not updating business practices quickly enough.”

Cosby said the money the city collected from tube fees will help preserve the Yampa River for years to come, as more visitors come to Steamboat to tube, kayak, fish and raft each year.

The fee was enacted to encourage tubers to use an outfitter rather than use their own tubes. Outfitters rent more durable tubes and educate users about river rules before they go.

Cosby said the city has not yet identified specific river education projects, but they hope to have better put-in/put-out signage for tubers, as well as signs educating visitors about the ban on disposable containers in the river.

“That’s a lot of education and enforcement to start building up,” Cosby said.

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