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Sad saga of conference center

Kaye Ferry

Now, I don’t want to rehash whether or not we need one. I personally vacillate between sometimes believing it will be our salvation and otherwise thinking it will be an additional burden on our road toward financial demise.

What I’m laying out here in the next three columns is a lot of information that I bet you don’t know, and then asking what we should do about it. I’m calling it the mini-series.

Last November, we voted to allow the town to start collecting taxes for the purpose of building a conference facility. That doesn’t mean we voted to build one – we just agreed to collect the tax. Confused? That’s only the beginning.

We were led to believe that we would be partnering with Vail Resorts through their donation of property known as the Holy Cross site. But we voted before that land had been legally bound to the project. Now technically, the wording on the ballot did not state a location. And maybe it wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that it was clear in the minds of all the voters whom I polled that the site we were talking about was Holy Cross and the words “partnership with VRI” were key to their support.

Question 1: How did our elected officials allow a ballot initiative to move forward to collect money to build a facility when no site was secured? I was dumb struck last week when one of them told me that it was our responsibility as voters to ferret out this information. It was not their responsibility to provide it. Excuuuuuse me?

To the polls we went and in support we were, so now problem one was place. On to problem two. We now had the opportunity to partially clear things up. The discussion arose after the election as to when to start collection of the approved taxes. It was suggested that we postpone collections until after a site was finally secured. “Oh no!” cried the Town Council. The staff chimed in that it was easiest to start collections at the beginning of the year. “Why?” was asked with no satisfactory response. Anyone with a cash register knows it doesn’t matter when you reprogram it.

But nonetheless, collect Jan. 1 was the decision. It was asked: What would happen if the project didn’t move forward for lack of a site or any other reason?

Believe it or not, here was the answer: First, we will need some of that money for studies and design costs, etc. But here’s the best part. ANY REMAINING MONEY WOULD HAVE TO BE RETURNED. You heard me. Returned. To whom? To those that collected it and then to those from whom it was collected. The Grind has collected taxes that would have to be returned to The Grind who would in turn have to get it back to the customer. I’ve almost scratched my head bald thinking about that scenario.

Ergo, Question 2: Why would we start collecting funds for a building that is homeless? Why do we always get the cart before the horse?

So now we’re trying to get the cart and the horse where they should have been in the first place. Easier said than done. Why isn’t the Holy Cross site a done deal? Seems there is confusion as to who said what to whom, what they meant by what they said, or what they really meant to say in the first place.

So where are we right now? We voted for something that was clearly unclear in its presentation and we’re collecting the tax when there’s STILL no place to put it. Was it illegal? Probably not. Was it misleading? Most assuredly so. With malicious intent? Doubtful; probably more like manipulative intent. All I know is that if you don’t have all of the pertinent facts, you can’t possibly make an intelligent decision.

Whose job is it to supply the voting public with those facts? I have an opinion and thus follows my conclusion for Rule No. 2: Elected officials need to communicate with their constituents and keep them informed.

So what’s the next step? What happened to the Holy Cross site? Why has it not been secured? Is it still available? If not there, what next? But don’t you really want to know why not there?

You’ve only heard part one. Stay tuned until next week while we proceed with the mini-series titled “The Conven-ooops-Conference Facility in the Happy Valley.” Keep this column close at hand for reference. It gets curiouser and curiouser. But you’ll need two Valiums. To be continued …

Updates: Parked cars on the Frontage Road: none on Friday; 287 on Saturday; and none on Sunday.

Additionally, in discussing parking at the March 11 Vail Chamber meeting, an idea was tossed out that may not be real popular but must be considered. If the community is truly intent on limiting discounted pass holders to the non-busy times, it’s only fair to include the merchant pass holders.

Until a new structure is erected, ALL members of the community should participate in finding a solution. How about restricting Saturdays? Think about it. It’d only be temporary.

Kaye Ferry of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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