Rose raises flag on Vail Rec
Former Vail Mayor Kent Rose is right. Vail should disband its recreation district. The district’s performance is irrelevant because it’s redundant. Most cities and towns in America – even ones as nice as Vail, where the residents are as ardent about quality playtime and top-notch playgrounds – have internal recreation departments.Such departments don’t require their own property taxes, a highly paid executive or bureaucracy of a separate board forever defending its turf. Or is that golf privileges for life? Town residents would be just as well served by a town recreation department. They might even save some money from duplicate administrative functions. The town manager could add recreation to his responsibilities. The same people who answer the phones for Town Hall could answer them for golf and gymnastics without breaking a sweat.Although its rec center is subsidized, Avon has managed well with recreation as a town service. Most, if not all, public rec centers are subsidized. Avon might have to spend more on its popular exercise facility (and charge higher fees) if it also had to pay for a separate agency director and a board of superfluous supervisors.More significantly, golfers and gymnasts wouldn’t notice the difference. They certainly wouldn’t be harmed by the disappearance of an inter-governmental relationship gone so sour that the rec directors need to hold peace conferences with the Town Council in periodic attempts to find some common ground. Or risk losing nearly $300,000 in revenue because for all their special focus as an independent entity they still couldn’t meet a basic deadline in order to collect the money. That was the last straw for Rose, who told the rec board this week he’d be advocating for their demise. While Vail’s choice is clearer, this begs the question about recreation in the rest of the valley. Really, is the better run Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District truly necessary as an agency entirely separate from Eagle County’s government? Should the county – which felt it necessary to form its own land trust – also absorb the rec district into its bureaucracy? The basic question is whether taxpayers feel that an autonomous rec agency is so critical that it’s worth the extra cost (in the same vein that some towns fund their own police or fire-rescue departments). The savings would come from less governmental process and no separate batch of overseers eager to defend their turf from the Board of Commissioners. Just a thought. In general, the fewer agencies the better makes the most sense in such a small county as this one. None of the functions are so unique or complicated that they can’t be bundled together and handled by the same administrators who plan budgets for roads, airports and open space. The same goes for firefighters and paramedics. Why in a valley of not even 40,000 people, which would leave a sea of empty seats at Invesco Field, are there four fire departments and two ambulance districts? That means four different fire chiefs and two different ambulance managers in a comparatively small area. In addition to turf battles, might the inherent expenses be better spent on equipment, training and lower property taxes? Who, exactly, is being served here? Vail, Colorado
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