Eagle approves funding help for Eagle Pool and Ice Rink improvements | VailDaily.com

Eagle approves funding help for Eagle Pool and Ice Rink improvements

Town Council agrees to kick in $3 million to Mountain Recreation project over period of 20 years

From left: Eagle Town Council members Geoff Grimmer, Mikel “Pappy” Kerst, Mayor Scott Turnipseed and David Gaboury and Janet Bartnik listen to staff comment Tuesday night in Eagle.
Kelli Duncan/kduncan@vaildaily.com

The Eagle Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday granting funding support for major improvements to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink as long as voters approve of the idea come November.

The town will kick in $3 million to the Mountain Recreation project over a period of 20 years or $150,000 per year, according to the resolution.

Mountain Recreation conducted a survey to gauge public interest in improvements to the pool and ice rink in 2019 and polled voters again in April of this year, the organization’s executive director Janet Bartnik said in an interview Wednesday.

From this data, the district gathered that voters are only willing to pitch in their taxpayer dollars to support the project up to a certain threshold, Bartnik said.

The official referendum that will appear on the November ballot requests the ability to levy a new tax and voters do not want this to be the sole source of funding for the $80 million of planned improvements to Mountain Rec facilities, she said. This number includes $42 million for the expansion of the pool and ice rink as well as upgrades to other facilities in Gypsum and Edwards.

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“These capital projects are something that we cannot afford to do within the funding that we already have existing, and our surveys have told us that folks don’t want to see us do this by ourselves,” Bartnik said.

The organization is striving to come up with $20 million in support from local governmental entities, nonprofits and private donors. If all goes according to plan, the November ballot initiative will ask voters who reside within the Mountain Recreation taxing district to cover the remaining $60 million needed for the project.

“We’re working really hard to bring the number down so that it’s a more palatable figure for the community,” Bartnik said.

Bartnik, who is also a member of the Eagle Town Council, said Tuesday was a big win. She recused herself from the vote.

All other Eagle Town Council members voted in favor of the resolution to support the project except for council member Matt Solomon, who said he did not feel comfortable pitching in money from Eagle taxpayers before the November vote.

“I voted no because I don’t want to see us allocate funding for another tax-based government entity for a project that hasn’t yet been approved by the voters,” Solomon said Wednesday.

Even if the referendum passes, Solomon said he still has reservations about the idea.

“[Mountain Rec is] financed by taxpayer dollars. The town is financed by taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Our financing is to work on our core services. Their financing is for their core services. At a very high level, we should not be mixing our budgets. We should maximize the use of taxpayer dollars.”

In a community the size of Eagle County, it is normal for multiple taxing bodies to partner on large, more costly projects such as this one, Bartnik said.

“In such a small community, I think there are very few large capital projects that are done without partnerships in order to bring things to fruition that are assets to the community,” she said.

If the November referendum passes, the town of Eagle will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Mountain Recreation, which will establish the terms and conditions of the town’s $3 million contribution, according to the resolution passed Tuesday.

Mountain Rec has put in a similar ask to the Gypsum Town Council, which will put the matter to a vote at a budget hearing in the coming weeks, Bartnik said.

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