$24,087 for each person in Vail | VailDaily.com
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$24,087 for each person in Vail

Kaye Ferry

Well, as I said last week, from here on in it’s election issues. The candidates will have to wait for a while. Petitions can still be picked up at the town offices and they don’t have to be turned back in with their signatures until Oct. 7. The town clerk then has 10 days to certify the petitions, and on Oct. 17 they actually draw for placement on the ballot.Don’t forget to mark your calendars. The Vail Chamber and Business Association is sponsoring a candidates forum Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. If you have questions that you want answered, e-mail them to info@vailchamber.org, phone 477-0075 or fax 477-0079 or stop in the VCBA office in the Vail Transportation Center.So in the meantime, let’s get started. I think I’ll start on the conference center because it will take more than one column to summarize what has already been the topic of 14 of my columns.For the time being I’m not going to spend a lot of time on details. I may change my mind later, but for now I’m not going to tell too much about how conference center space has increased by 51 percent since 2000 to 64 million square feet with another 7 million square feet under way. All while demand has been spiraling down by 30-40-50 percent from coast to coast.Or that Las Vegas and Orlando are the only ones making it. Or even worse, that large centers like Dallas are engaged in price wars giving space away for free while using carrots like room incentives to draw groups. Incentives like $5 per attendee per night to event planners who book their facility. And of course the Brookings Institute report titled “Space Available,” by Professor Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas has been quoted often, so I don’t need to mention it. Because while there are those in the community that would like to discount that report, others have called it required reading for anyone contemplating entering the conference center competition. And Joe Mysak of Bloomberg News labels it “the report Wall Street doesn’t want you to read,” since they’re content selling bonds for this influx of pie in the sky hopes for economic salvation.I don’t have to remind you how we got here in the first place. We commissioned a study. Of course you know how much we’ve always loved paying heaps of money for studies. Well, this was no exception. Yet if you look at these studies closely, you too might ask the question posed in Forbes in their Feb. 28 issue. “Why Is The Answer Always Yes?”Logic would answer it for you if a partner in the Strategic Advisory Group hadn’t. “You lose clients if you shoot down projects. Of course we have to make a lot of assumptions.” No kidding. Of 75 projects analyzed by them, only four were nixed.Yet when these centers are up and running, that’s when the shocking statistics appear. Not a single conference center built in the last 10 years has reached its projections. Not one! In fact, the closest has reached a mere 40 percent of projected revenues, others as low as 10 percent.I certainly don’t need to comment on the design. It’s gone from mushroom to who knows what. Someone called it “bugly.” When I looked surprised, I was told it was short for butt ugly. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it sure isn’t my taste. I’ll leave that call to you.Then there’s the plan. This thing is proposed to be built to fill the shoulder seasons (otherwise known as off, slow, mud seasons) and the summer. Which brings up all sorts of questions. Let’s take spring. Even we don’t stay here for that. And if a guest ever came, they’d never come back. Then there’s fall. Better but still not great, even though September and October are the two biggest convention months. But just to prove a point, we went to four places after the movie the other night before we found one open for dinner. So we’re left with summer. No arguments there. It’s the slowest time of the year for conventions. Everyone’s on family vacations.And of course last but not least, I don’t need to mention the cost. Because I’m sure you know that while a lot of numbers have been thrown around, the real cost is $112,295,000. That’s with finance charges, etc. At those numbers, even the cheerleaders of this project admit up front, it will lose money every year. Forever. It’s part of the plan. Even if the new tax passes, it is projected and budgeted to lose money every year. Forever.So with that in mind, what do you think will happen if anything goes wrong? Well, it’s real simple. You’ll get to pick up the pieces. By that I mean you’ll get to foot the bill either in sales tax or property tax increases, with property tax being the most likely. Even though that will be unpleasant for the residential property owner, it’ll be three times as painful for the commercial property owner because as you may or may not know, commercial property is taxed at three times the rate of residential property. Which, of course, helps explain the fact that the biggest proponents of the conference center don’t live in town. They have absolutely nothing to lose. But the Vail taxpayer does.One very interesting statistic that no one has pointed out yet is this: At $112,295,000 and a population of 4,662 per the latest census results in 2002, that come s to $24,087.30 for every man, woman and child in the town of Vail. Wow. But there is another choice. I’ll explain next week. Stay tuned.To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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