Minturn council rejects plea for Ginn money
MINTURN, Colorado “-It was an admirable attempt for one resident to try to look out for the taxpayers, said Mayor Hawkeye Flaherty, but Frank Lorenti didn’t succeed in convincing the Town Council to sign a resolution requesting promised funds from the Ginn Co.
Lorenti made a presentation to the council at its meeting Wednesday night to put pressure on the Ginn Co., which intends to develop Battle Mountain into a ski resort and golf course, to release $11.6 million to the town for projects the company and town agreed upon when residents approved Ginn’s annexation earlier this year.
It’s money that, according to the agreement, should have been available to the town immediately, Lorenti said. He even questioned if the money was in an escrow account as the public has been told, because he has not been able to see the account records.
“People wanted that money, they wanted that (recreation) center and they didn’t get it,” he said. “A lot of people are upset.”
The agreement says that the money’s release is contingent upon the company’s development draft being finalized or the two parties agreeing upon it.
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So Lorenti asked the council to sign a resolution to initiate a possible agreement.
“We need to get something out into the public eye and get some pressure on Ginn to release that money,” Lorenti said. “I’d like you to take that first step and say, ‘We want to release these funds.'”
Lorenti referred to a previous Vail Daily article in which Ginn Senior Vice President Bill Weber was quoted as saying the company is a good neighbor, but wants to also be a good partner.
“If they want to be a good neighbor, let’s see that $11.6 million ” not hide behind lawsuits,” Lorenti said.
But according to Town Attorney Allen Christensen, it’s the lawsuit against the company, by a man claiming he owns nearly a dozen acres of the land, that’s holding up the release of that money.
If Ginn did dole out the $11.6 million now, Christensen said it would put taxpayers in danger because the town would have to pay the money back if Ginn loses the lawsuit.
“Do you think any prudent business person is going to sign a resolution with this cloud hanging over them and release all this money?” council member Jerry Bumgarner said. “Come on, be reasonable.”
Lorenti sees it another way, though.
“It’s pretty simple. You want the money or not,” he said.
Interim Town Manager Gary Suiter said he, Christensen and Ginn have been in talks to try and get some of the money in the escrow account to focus on the design of the recreation center, begin a scholarship fund and make improvements to Main Street and Little Beach. Christensen said drawing a portion of the money from the account is much less risky and could be recovered fairly easily if the lawsuit against Ginn is won, rather than drain the account entirely.
“We’re working on it,” Flaherty said. “We will continue to work on it.”
Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or email@example.com.