Community competes for county cash |

Community competes for county cash

Tamara Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – Though many people asked the commissioners to help with a new 24,000-square-foot livestock pavilion at the county fairgrounds, there wasn’t a consensus on the board to meet that request. The group requested around $2 million for the pavilion, which would house livestock during the fair and could host different events throughout the year. Tim Cochrane, director of the Eagle Valley Chamber Commerce, said his group turns away dozens of offers to bring events – such as car shows or barrel racing contests – because there isn’t a facility large enough. Others said the facility would benefit the community because visitors attending shows would stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants.Commissioner Michael Gallagher said he’d spend $1.8 million on the pavilion, but also was concerned about how much the project would actually cost, he said. Building the pavilion would likely require new water and sewer lines. Commissioner Tom Stone said children in 4-H will have to store their livestock in a temporary facility for next summer’s fair. Rather than allocating money for it now, Stone suggested waiting until the annual county audit is finished, which usually frees up extra money. Commissioner Arn Menconi said the new facility is a good idea, but “I’m not excited about the location.”Menconi would rather see money put aside to help purchase and preserve 72 acres of land in Edwards as open space, he said.The Vail Valley Foundation has a $12 million purchase contract on that parcel, better known as Eaton Ranch. The foundation has asked the county to pitch in $6 million.Using all of the county’s designated open space money wouldn’t be enough to meet the request. The board has yet to consider the Eaton Ranch funding request, Stone said, adding it was premature to talk about it.==========================================EAGLE COUNTY – The winners are few. The losers are many. It’s that time of the year when towns, community groups and even Eagle County’s own employees try to get some of the county’s cash next year for their projects. Most are turned down. In forming the county’s 2005 budget, commissioners have to consider the standard expenses: employee salaries and benefits, building maintenance and the like. Unlike many counties across the country, Eagle County won’t be laying anyone off to balance their budget. But the commissioners also have to decide where to send money collected expressly for construction projects throughout the county. That money, which comprises 35 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue, totals $3.6 million next year. County commissioners met Tuesday for a lengthy discussion on who should get a piece of that $3.6 million. Dozens of groups – from the town of Gypsum to the county’s senior citizens – requested money. The construction and new equipment budget is particularly tight this year because so many of the county’s own projects already are taking up funds, said Mike Roeper, the county’s finance director. Commissioners have already committed $1.2 million on the Berry Creek Childcare Facility in Edwards. Another $31,711 will be spent on an armored vehicle for the Sheriff’s Office. That leaves just over $2 million left to divvy up.Looks like a winnerCommissioners will formally adopt a budget on Dec. 14. But much of Tuesday’s public hearing was spent determining who will get the money. It also gave the public a chance to plead their case for the last time.A request to expand the Golden Eagle Senior Center in Eagle drew public support during the meeting. Johnette Phillips, a senior citizen volunteer and a former county commissioner, urged the board to set aside $308,000 for the project. The population is aging, and popularity of the county’s meal programs and social activities for seniors citizens is growing, Phillips said. “There’s just not enough room for the people who attend these activities,” Phillips said. The money would be used to expand the center’s dining room, kitchen and exercise room, said John Lowry, the county’s senior service coordinator.Commissioner Michael Gallagher worried whether $308,000 and the planned expansion would be enough, he said. As the Baby Boomer generation continues grow older, there will be more of a need for senior services in Eagle County, he said.The commissioners said they supported funding that project.The board also is likely to at least partially fund a $500,000 request to help build a fire station in West Vail. The Vail Fire Department has tried to build a station there for years, and Vail officials turned up at the meeting to plead their case. The Vail Fire department responds to calls outside of the town limits and in the unincorporated parts of the county 12 to 14 percent of the time, Assistant Town Manager Pam Brandmeyer. “We’re all one valley,” said Vail Fire Chief John Gulick. The commissioners seemed reluctant to fund the entire request next year. However, all three supported setting aside $250,000 in 2005, and the other half in 2006.The board also unanimously supported spending $50,000 to help build a grandstand in the town of Eagle park, which is next to the county building on Broadway Street. The park improvements are part of the Eagle’s downtown improvement project.Umm … probably notAfter spending millions of dollars in Edwards, it’s time for the county to invest in the downvalley communities, Menconi said. He wanted to set aside $1.5 million to help build the Gypsum Recreation Center. Gypsum voters recently approved a sales tax increase to build that center. Officials involved in that effort told Stone they could build the center without the county’s help, Stone said. Stone and Gallagher didn’t list the recreation center as one of their priorities.Other requests that didn’t get a nod were: Money for a McCoy/Bond Fire Station, funding to help improve an intersection in Basalt and funds to help build a transit center in Avon. And the list goes on and on.Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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