Gypsum rec center hangs on tax vote | VailDaily.com
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Gypsum rec center hangs on tax vote

Cliff Thompson

GYPSUM – Voters in Gypsum will be asked Nov. 2 to decide whether they would like to increase the town’s sales tax by a penny – to 4 percent- to pay for a recreation center that’s expected to cost up to $10.5 million.

If the funding is approved the new facility would be 57,000 square feet and would contain an indoor lap pool and other recreation facilities, and would be built south of town hall on town land on Valley Road. Construction would be completed in late 2006.

The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, which overlaps the incorporated towns of Gypsum and Eagle as well as the Edwards area, will contribute $3 million towards the rec center.

The sales tax increase is expected to generate $460,000 a year which would be earmarked to pay off long-term revenue bonds.

The increase in sales tax, which is specifically earmarked for the new facility, would be rolled back to 3 percent once the construction costs are paid. A 4 percent sales tax would bring the sales-tax level in Gypsum to 8.4 percent, equal to rates in Eagle and elsewhere.

‘Wonderful amenity’

Howard Tuthill, owner of Gypsum’s Columbine Market said he likes the idea of adding a recreational facility to the town of 4,200.

“I think having the rec center would be a wonderful amenity,” he said. “Forty or more percent of the cost will be paid by visitors who rent cars at the airport.”

Once the facility is built, the operating costs will be split between the town and the recreation district, which would operate the facility, said Tom Edwards, a town council member. He said estimates by the town indicate up to 45 or even 50 percent of the sales taxes would come from tourists and other visitors.

“That’s the reason we selected sales tax over a mill levy increase,” he said. With interest rates on revenue bonds hovering between 5 and 6 percent, Edwards said he doesn’t expect the cost of the facility to reach $10.5 million.

Opposed ‘all along’

But not everyone favors the idea. Former town council member Bob Mayne, who served 12 years, and is a lifelong resident, said he doesn’t like it.

“I think the rec district doesn’t need any more money than it’s already got,” he said. “It’s not really serving its function. It’s expecting towns to put up all the money and it’s getting all the glory. I’ve been opposed to it all along. I think Gypsum could have accomplished more if they’d had the same rec district serving the town of Gypsum. We’d have gotten more bang for the buck.”

Businessman Peter Struve of Mac’s Liquors, who has been in Gypsum for 24 years, said he favors the idea of increasing the sales tax for a recreation center because of what it will add to the town.

“This community center will start to establish a core that Gypsum doesn’t have,” he said. “I hate paying more taxes and collecting more but it’s something the town needs. We’re in a competition with all the other towns (in the county). This would give us an edge.”

Eleven-year resident Cappie Green said she also likes the idea and dismisses criticism that it’s going to be a children’s center.

“It’s so much more than just for kids,” she said. “You can run indoors, work out or swim. It offers a huge amount for the community.”

Pool points

The idea has been on the town’s radar screen since 2000 when a survey conducted by the recreation district showed a majority of residents wanted a recreational facility.

“I’ll be voting for the 1 percent sales tax to build the Gypsum community center for a number of reasons,” said Suzanne Silverthorn, a resident who helped bring the measure to a vote. “First, it’s a facility that appeals to the entire family. For us, that includes our 13-year-old son, as well as my 70-something mother. We can all find something stimulating to do there, whether it’s working in the fitness center, attending a community event or taking a water aerobics class.

“The indoor pool, in particular, is something the community has been asking for as long as I’ve lived here,” she added. “And, it will complement the outdoor pool facility in Eagle.”

Edwards said there have been preliminary discussions about having a single pass that would allow recreation users to use both the Eagle and Gypsum recreation facilities.

Vieva De Graw, a lifelong resident of 60 years, said she is opposed to the tax increase to fund the recreation center.

“I think it would be in the best interest of everyone living here to vote against raising the sales tax,” she said. “It’s unfortunate there’s not more participation by the people living in the town. People need to start getting active in their communities again. I love the idea of a recreation center if there was more planning.”

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

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