Gypsum to seek sales tax increase |

Gypsum to seek sales tax increase

Kathy Heicher

The Gypsum Town Council Tuesday voted unanimously to put a ballot question before voters that will seek a 1-cent sales tax increase that would finance construction of a recreation center.The question, which voters would decide Nov. 2, would allow the town to assume an $8.5-million debt for the recreation center. The tax would be in effect until the debt is paid.As proposed, the nearly 57,000-square-foot structure would include an indoor pool, multi-activity gym, gymnastics area, climbing wall, aerobics room, jogging track, cardio- and weight-training area, a cafe, senior citizen lounge and a child-care room. Local residents have long indicated, through various surveys, that an indoor pool is a top priority.In addition to the sale tax revenues, the town plans to help fund the project through money collected from recreation impact fees paid by developers. The Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District is expected to contribute $3 million toward construction of the facility. Town leaders also plan to seek a contribution from Eagle County.The proposed one-cent sales tax would generate an estimated $460,000 in additional revenues, annually. Town officials estimate that 50 percent of their sales tax revenues come from car rentals at the Eagle County Airport. Town Manager Jeff Shroll said the Gypsum will pay off its Town Hall in 2008, which could make more money available.Prior to approving the sale tax ballot issue, the board heard citizen input regarding the feasibility study for the facility. The suggested use fees for the recreation facility drew concern from several residents. The feasibility study suggests an $850 price on an annual family pass. In comparison, the annual family pass for the Avon recreation Center is $709. Some audience members said that price would be daunting for them.Shroll said the fee proposal was only tentative at this point.”We asked for ball park numbers. The fees are not set in stone,” he said. “Our goal has always been to work with families. We have a myriad of options.” Shroll said the town would monitor the facility with an eye on keeping costs down.”We want to serve the towns of Eagle and Gypsum primarily. We know we are all blue collar workers,” he told the audience.”This is a feasibility study, not a plan. That’s what we are shooting for at the moment,” said Town Council member Tom Edwards. “The fees are certainly adjustable. We’ve known that all along.”Among the options for lowering costs could be trimming some aspects of the facility as the project moves into the design phase. Such cost cutting is common on large-scale, public capital projects.Audience members showed a tendency to lobby for their own interests. Serious swimmers called for a bigger pool, with more lap lanes, and questioned some aspects of the facility, such as the “lazy river” and water slide designed for kids. Some suggested that a gymnastics area was not necessary, hinting that costs could be trimmed by dropping that aspect of the project.But Shroll said a few months ago, when gymnastics parents dominated the audience, the input was different.”What we are presenting now is what people want. We’re trying to incorporate a lot of different voices,” Shroll said. The consultants for the facility said the recreation center attempts to meet the needs of diverse demographics, ranging from senior citizens to children.Gypsum resident Joan Harned suggested building the center in stages, if it proves too costly. She said the indoor pool is the top priority of local residents, and should be the focus of the first phase.Town leaders and the consultants are keeping a wary eye on construction costs, which have recently been running at an inflation rate of 8-10 percent.Vail, Colorado

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