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Rec board strong-armed

Kaye Ferry

I’m still searching for the correct word. But I’m afraid that, like a lot of issues involving our elected officials, this one defies description and thus also defies the search for one word to portray the situation.

Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the two meetings last week between the Vail Town Council and the Vail Recreation District’s board. And then maybe you haven’t. Because they happened fast, one being legal while the other didn’t start out even close, although the PR spin would have you think differently.

OK. So now I’ll explain. On Monday, according to a Recreation District Board member, the VRD was “summoned” by the Town Council to an emergency meeting to discuss the up coming May ballot questions. The VRD expected two VTC reps to meet with two reps from their board. Instead there were six from the VTC, plus the town attorney, plus the town manager.

In short, open meeting laws require that the public be noticed when more than two elected officials of any board gather for the purpose of doing business. In the case of Monday’s meeting, notice was given on Friday by the VTC. The VRD did not need to notice, as there were only two of them planning to attend.

But the VTC was on a mission. They were focused on convincing the VRD to hold off on some of the ballot questions until November. The VRD at their last meeting, by a vote of 4-1, had agreed to put three issues before the voters in May: retirement of the Dobson debt; improvement of the Vail Golf Course; redevelopment of the golf course clubhouse. The VRD was told that if they proceeded with these initiatives in May, the VTC wouldn’t support them.

And they prevailed. Which brings us to Tuesday, the regularly scheduled VRD board meeting. The place where the vote occurs. And to this event, four TC members appeared. Remember the rule of two? Well there were four from the VTC. The VRD had noticed, but the VTC had not – in clear violation of the law. But wait. There’s an explanation. The spin is that the law allows for chance encounters of more than two elected officials at social events or when the discussion of public business is not the central purpose.

But it wasn’t chance. It wasn’t a social event. And clearly, public business was the purpose. So when this was pointed out, the TC members started rotating in and out of the chambers in order to keep within the two limit.

The result? A previous majority of four was whittled down to a minority of two on the subsequent votes. But the real pity is that the only ballot initiative to survive is the one involving the Dobson Arena debt. Of all the options on the table, this, in my humble opinion, was always the one least likely to pass.

Yet this May, the voters will be asked to raise taxes for the purpose of paying off the financial debt on Dobson – a debt that was incurred by what most of the community interprets to be just plain irresponsible management. The VRD caved on the only initiatives that had any possible chance of passing – again, in my opinion. Having said that, however, I will vote for it.

I have only one more comment. When the Vail Town Council was quoted as saying the VRD had proceeded without informing them of their plans, they were blowing smoke rings. The VRD has two VTC reps who attend VRD meetings. If the VTC is uninformed, it’s either because their reps aren’t reporting back or they aren’t paying attention.

But as long as we’re on the topic of the VRD and the TC, let’s discuss the Bubble. Or is it THE Bubble. Whatever. It’s almost that time of year again, so Vail Junior Hockey appeared at the Feb. 17 TC meeting to give a heads up. The hockey group presented several options, as they did last year: maintain the status quo, put it in storage or sell-relocate it. And they came to the conclusion, as they did last year, that the best solution is to sell the Bubble to a downvalley entity as a practice facility.

The recommendation was made without benefit of this winter’s financial recap from the VRD, the facts of which should seal the deal in anybody’s mind. As predicted, this year’s numbers will be even worse than last. The anticipated lost revenues will increase from minus $25,000 in 2002-03 to minus $45,000 in 2003-04. Not a pretty picture. Yet in the face of similar information last year, the Vail TC forged ahead when both the VRD and the Vail Junior Hockey parents recommended otherwise.

Let’s hope that a more sane mentality will rule this year. We cannot continue to lose money at an escalating pace on a facility that clearly better meets the needs of the community when located elsewhere. We have Dobson. It’s obvious that’s all the ice this town can support.

Granted, there may be days when it’s not enough. But for every other project the analysis seems to always be “don’t build the church for Easter Sunday.” Most of the kids live downvalley and that’s where the Bubble should be. Better that a few Vail kids drive west than hordes of downvalley kids drive east. Incidentally, I feel the same way about the gymnastics facility, but that’s the subject of another column.

Cars on the Frontage Road: Friday, cars but no TOV count; Saturday 205; Sun 381; Monday, cars but no TOV count.

Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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