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No way should this be built

Kaye Ferry

I’m going to give you my last thoughts on the conference center before you head off to vote. And I truly hope this subject will never come up again in my lifetime.To begin with, while I generally make a practice of not responding to others’ comments in this paper, I cannot contain myself over two that recently surfaced. I am referring to the inaccuracies that have been written by Mr. Levine and Mr. Cacioppo.Both urge you to support the conference center even though neither of them live in Vail or have anything at risk. Furthermore, if either of them had spent even a moment at the three years of conference center committee meetings surrounding this topic, they would not have had to create fantasy where there is clear fact.So let’s get it straight one last time. The bond holder is protected. The tax is what guarantees the bond, and the tax is the reason Wall Street is willing to back the bonds. What is not guaranteed are the shortages. The town is allowed to borrow for the construction costs, and the taxpayers will be responsible for any operational deficits.Dee Wisor, the town’s bond attorney, made it perfectly clear that there is no legal way to create a fire wall between the conference center’s finances and the town’s general fund. PERIOD. END OF STORY.In a desperate attempt to do so, a suggestion was made to pass an ordinance making it impossible for the town to ever dip into the general fund to cover shortages at the conference center. Legal counsel informed the Town Council that they could pass one if they wanted, but the ordinance wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. How much clearer does it have to be to convince those that would like to confuse you with smoke and mirrors?So vote for it if you like, but at least know what your risk is as a Vail taxpayer. Know also that it’s not the end, either. The next request will be to expand the conference center over the parking structure. And the one after that will be to build the hotel. And the final tax increase will be for marketing dollars. Because it’s a script that every city follows. Now I’ll move on. But not with any more studies or statistics. Just some simple but very salient facts. The pitiful reality is that we are still, after three more years, not being given all of the necessary information to make a truly informed decision.For example, do you know that the tax increase you’re being asked to support is based on what is essentially a guess. And it can only be a guess at this point because neither the Planning and Environmental Commission, Design Review Board or Colorado Department of Transportation has approved the project. There is absolutely NO WAY that these numbers can be anywhere near accurate without those approvals. Then there’s Harry. It’s extraordinarily curious that Mr. Frampton would write such an engaging commentary urging the Vail taxpayer to go out on a huge financial limb and build this conference center when he pulled out of the one he had proposed in Avon. Oh, yes. Just two weeks ago when discussing the development of the confluence sight with the town of Avon, East West Partners pulled out of their proposal for a conference center that had already been approved in that location. Why? Because the numbers don’t work was the reason given.If this is such a great idea, why doesn’t Harry build it? I’ll tell you why. Because as long as it’s someone else’s money, the risk is acceptable. But God forbid private enterprise should jump of that cliff. That’s why East West Partners makes a lot of money, and Harry lives on Beaver Dam Road. Because they don’t make bad investments. But the classic “cons” came from the town in their recap on the ballot question. I couldn’t do better myself, so I’ll just give you direct quotes.– “Experts believe that a conference center without an attached hotel is fatally flawed.”– “Data indicates that it will not be viable in spring or shoulder, and summer conferences are not popular.” — “The plan indicates a large percentage of projected conference center business is coming from existing business, not new business. The town should not use tax dollars to compete with private business. Seventy-five percent of all U.S. conferences can be handled by Vail’s existing or planned facilities.” — “There is no guarantee the town will not have to pay operating losses in the future. If the conference center loses money, the town will have to use general funds that were intended for services, streets, etc.” — “Once we start building, we are committed (forever) whether the projected costs are right or not.” So we’re close to the end of the line and it boils down to just a few basic questions:– Are we being asked to risk $112,295,000 of public money so a limited number of large privates hotels can make a profit?– Are we being asked to invest this amount for the 3 percent of business that we can’t already accommodate in existing or planned facilities?– Is this tax justified because we can pass it on to the unsuspecting and loyal customer?– Is there any assurance that this is the end of such financial requests?– Is there a better use for $112,295,00.00?I would suggest that you should be very sure of the answer to these questions before you agree to put this entire community at great financial risk for the possible benefit of a few.This vote barely squeaked through the last time and only then because we didn’t have the facts. I would suggest that we have more facts this time and all they do is paint an even bleaker picture.Those who know will vote NO.Those who are unclear should do the same.DON’T BE FOOLED A SECOND TIME. THE RISK IS TOO GREAT.I urge you to VOTE NO on the CONFERENCE CENTER. And when you’ve done that, you’ll still be left with the Town Council election. I know I promised to make some choices here, and I will. But with six days to go, I’ve moved from three to five and I may not narrow it down until I’m in the booth with the curtain drawn. So all I can do now is give you my five best picks and let you do the rest. So here goes (drum role, please): Dick Cleveland, Diana Donovan, Kevin Foley, Mark Gordon, Farrow Hitt. I may live to regret it, but those are my choices. Now we just have to wait and see. But Kevin, if you’re elected will you pledge to change your “policy” of not returning emails and phone calls?And one last question. Why would someone who owns a million dollar house put his mother in Middle Creek employee housing?Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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