Dissolve Vail rec board, ex-mayor says | VailDaily.com

Dissolve Vail rec board, ex-mayor says

Scott N. Miller

VAIL ” A former Vail mayor thinks it’s time for the town’s recreation district to go.

Kent Rose was on the Vail Town Council in the early 1990s when that board agreed to ask voters to create an independent recreation district. Voters agreed, and the Vail Recreation District was created in 1993. A dozen years later, Rose thinks the district’s time has passed.

Addressing the recreation district board Tuesday evening, Rose said he would go to the Vail Town Council’s March 15 meeting to request that it dissolve the recreation district and make it a town department again.

“The district has been criticized for not being responsible to community needs and for being fiscally irresponsible,” Rose said. “I agree … the town can provide a broader financial base.”

Rose said he’d been thinking about asking the Town Council to dissolve the recreation district for a couple of months, but the issue came to a head following the revelation that district staff hadn’t filed paperwork with Eagle County to collect a tax increase that voters approved in May.

That tax increase was supposed to make the payments on a $2.1 million bond issue voters passed in 2001. That bond paid for renovations and repairs to Dobson Ice Arena.

Last year’s tax increase was supposed to raise about $280,000 per year to make those payments.

In the wake of missing the deadline, former district director Dennis Stein resigned last week. A press release from the district office said Stein quit due to a family emergency.

After Rose spoke, new rec director Mike Ortiz told the board how district staff plans to cover this year’s shortfall. This year’s bond debt payment will be made from an emergency reserve fund. The problem, though, is that the fund will have to be repaid ” and might have to be repaid within six months.

Ortiz said the district’s attorney, Jim Collins, is trying to convince the firm that holds the Dobson bond to waive that requirement since the tax increase passed last year provides a guaranteed source of money for repayment.

Board members then talked about Rose’s plan.

“I would ask the public to wait for a few weeks before they rush to judgment,” board member Julie Hansen said. “I don’t know why the town would do a better job. We have a specific charge the public’s given to us.”

Fellow board member Peter Cook agreed. The district’s budget is roughly $4.5 million, he said.

“I have my doubts whether it will be spent on recreation, or what the town thinks is more important,” Cook said.

Those arguments fell flat with resident Bob Louthan.

“The issue is credibility,” Louthan said. District officials stumping for a pair of tax increases last fall claimed programs would have to be cut if the measures didn’t pass, Louthan said.

“There haven’t been any cuts,” Louthan said. “Tonight, we heard they can still maintain programs. That seems to create credibility problems.”

But another former Town Council member urged a go-slow approach.

“There’s a reason we voted to separate the district, and that was the concern monies wouldn’t be available,” Bill Jewitt said. “We may not have a problem with the way the district is set up. It’s always a matter of who you get on these boards.”

But sentiment in the hall seemed to favor dissolution.

Current Town Council members Kim Ruotolo, Kent Logan and Diana Donovan all attended the meeting. None would speak directly to Rose’s plan before hearing it officially.

But, Rose said, “I think a majority of the council will agree with me.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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