Gennett: Spend on trails, not Town Hall | VailDaily.com

Gennett: Spend on trails, not Town Hall

AVON — Could the town be planning to purchase the Skier Building for $1.5 million in cash in 2016?

That was the question on councilman Matt Gennett’s mind at Tuesday’s meeting as town staff presented next year’s budget to the council. The line item in question, as it was presented Tuesday, read “$1.5 million cash purchase for town hall relocation.” Town Manager Virginia Egger was careful in explaining to Gennett that the line item should read “town hall renovation/relocation,” and is not necessarily suggested as an allocation for the purchase of the Skier Building.

The Skier Building — a vacant edifice located on the town’s new Main Street Mall — was the subject of a referendum earlier this year when citizens rejected a plan to purchase the building for $3.2 million using certificate of participation bonds, with the goal of relocating Town Hall there. Since then one of the major opponents of the idea, Avon resident Mark Kogan, said he has given the town input on what the building is worth, and is now supportive of the new price on the building. Kogan is a former partner at Goldman Sachs who aided in the negotiation of billions of dollars in real estate transactions before retiring in 2004.

The newly negotiated price has yet to be revealed in public, but Gennett says he suspects it’s the $1.5 million itemized in the 2016 budget, which the council is expected to vote on Dec. 9.

“We’ve made a commitment to these trails, and it seems pretty logical that, given the outpouring that we’ve heard and the bang for the buck that we’re getting from those trails, that we should take a serious look at (diverting money from the Town Hall relocation/renovation into trails).”Matt GennettAvon Town Council member

Fueling that suspicion was a suggestion from Gennett on Tuesday that the number be dropped to $1.45 million so that $50,000 could be spent on trail work in town instead.

“How did that ($1.5 million) get so exact?” Gennett asked.

Gennett’s suggestion, that money be diverted out of the $1.5 million line item to fund a recommendation from Avon’s trails committee that $125,000 go into trails in 2016, momentarily put trails at odds with the agenda to relocate Town Hall on Tuesday. Gennett said in choosing between the two, the choice is obvious.

“We’ve made a commitment to these trails, and it seems pretty logical that, given the outpouring that we’ve heard and the bang for the buck that we’re getting from those trails, that we should take a serious look at (diverting money from the Town Hall relocation/renovation into trails),” Gennett said.

BANG FOR THE BUCK

A dozen or so community members turned out to Tuesday’s meeting, many of whom were there to express support for the idea for the town to put more money into more trails, trail maintenance and a new trails master plan. Wildridge resident Cody Wyse, a volunteer who helped build many of the town’s new trails in the West Avon Preserve, waited more than four hours to hear the outcome of the allocation suggestion.

Former Avon resident John Shipp pledged a donation of $5,000 if the town would agree to spending $125,000 on trails in 2016. The Singletree resident and owner of The Dusty Boot made a similar pledge in the spring of 2014 as Avon was deciding whether or not to have trails constructed in the West Avon Preserve in time for that summer. Shipp said the council’s fast action at that time was the most impressive thing he’s seen from a local government in his 25 years of doing business in Colorado.

“It was the best $5,000 I’ve ever spent in this county, period,” he said.

Shipp said moving forward, it’s the town manager and Town Council’s job is to listen to what is important to the people living in town, and trails are one of those issues people find important.

“People are happier on those trails, they’re happier than they are when they’re in their cars, and the connectivity and everything that’s happening in this valley, as a whole … is super important right now,” he said.

Gennett agreed.

“I’ve gotten hundreds of emails (about the trails), hundreds,” he said after the meeting. “That is an existing capital improvement project, that needs an ongoing funding commitment from the town. We need to continue building new trails, because we have to spread people out. That helps preserve the existing trails and also gives us a much better network, draws more people in. You talk about the biggest bang for your buck, those people … spend money at Northside, Loaded Joe’s, Sports Authority, the liquor store, they’re spending money in town and we don’t have to have this huge production cost. … It’s getting real results, and it’s the best way we can spend our money.”

Gennett said he would like to see the $1.5 million Town Hall relocation/renovation money spent on trails and activating the town’s new stage, a $3.7 million effort which, now that it’s here, will require hundreds of thousands more for programming and operation, he said.

“That’s where we should be reinvesting,” he said. “Take your $1.5 million and split it between the trails and the stage.”