Richard Carnes: Silly spending suits Vail
My oh my, Happy Valley done made the big time!
Front page of last Monday’s Denver Post, and there it was, splattered out there for all locals who make a living from property investments (and we all qualify to one degree or another) to see: “Hard sale for resorts.”
The massive headline was complete with full-color property photos, down-sloping graphs, and shots of a lonely real estate agent dressed for a luau, yet the crux of the story was that nobody else was around to enjoy the free Mai-tai’s.
Of course, this is not the sort of publicity we exactly want up here, especially with real estate sales volume being down almost 50 percent from last year, which itself was no record-breaker, but what the hell, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
In these times of ever-pressing financial uncertainty, town of Vail leaders are apparently doing their collective best to prove otherwise with the Seibert Circle Accumulative Mess (SCAM).
An unfortunate acronym for sure, and not at all fair because the word “scam” connotes deceit with malicious intent, yet I am not implying anyone is guilty of such a thing. However, the word is certainly appropriate from a taxpayer’s point of view, as this is apparently how many of them feel towards the long-winded project.
And who can blame them?
This debacle is more than 10 years old already, and although many have tried, none can say when the project will be actually finished or how high the final tax-funded tally will be.
To remind the uninitiated, a past council paid a guy named Jesus $700,000 to strategically place a few metaphorical rocks (maybe they were real rocks, I can’t remember …) in the middle of Seibert Circle, the plaza named after resort co-founder Pete Seibert.
While true that a few evangelicals might have been happy, the rest of us simply ignored the stone thingimajigs, and bowed our heads feigning distraction elsewhere each time we passed by.
Still, $700 grand was a lot of tax money at the time (come to think of it, that’s still a lot of tax money today), yet coffers were flush and a tribute to Pete was, well, a tribute to Pete.
We all wanted to do “something.”
The rocks became semi-accepted for a few years, sort of like an ex-wife living down the street because you want the kids close. But eventually the kids grow up and move away, and you can no longer stomach your ex nearby, so you start helping her find another place to live.
It took a while, but another council finally got the hint, and shipped Jesus’ rocks to what I believe is the same warehouse Indiana Jones used for the Ark.
Their replacement version was finally narrowed down to a stone dragon of sorts, one capable of hurling fire and water in a bizarre, but probably cool, year-round dance that’s sure to capture people’s attention, and maybe even help keep them warm in the winter.
But this one costs another $700,000, give or take a few thousand. And here’s where the serious embarrassment really begins.
Less than a year later another $200,000 was needed to cover cost overruns.
Now another year has gone by and, after more than $1.5 million tax dollars, we still find ourselves with no fountain, no fire, no water, and the council cannot even find a rock to hide between their proverbial selves and a hard place.
To quote Vail councilwoman (and local decision maker) Kim Newbury, “It’s disappointing beyond belief …” when referring to the frustrations of the entire project.
To paraphrase President Bush (our federal decision maker), “There is no question about it. Bridge Street got drunk …”
Face it, in this national economy, and with the current transportation issues, housing, parking, capital improvements needed, rising fuel prices, and a lagging real estate market being front-page news in Denver, combined with a projected shortfall of $25.8 million over the next five years for town of Vail capital projects, just what in the wide, wide, world of irresponsibility are they thinking?
Things could be worse, I suppose, as this project’s total costs so far (not including the private funds donated) run less than $500 per day if tracked from inception in 1997.
That’s chump change compared to the $2,500 per day they spent on those silly windmills last year.
NOTE: The preceding opinions belong to Richard and are not necessarily shared by this newspaper … but for financial face-saving reasons, he thinks they should firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a column for the Daily on Tuesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.