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Sluggish economy nips nonprofits

Matt Zalaznick

Avon, for example, cut contributions nearly 75 percent for 2003 to groups such as the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Vail Valley Foundation.

“We have to put money where we show a return, instead of just giving money away,” Councilman Pete Buckley said.

Avon, in the past, has contributed thousands of dollars to events held in Vail or on Vail Mountain. But with severe budget constraints strangling this year’s spending, Avon leaders have given more scrutiny to how much the town earns from these events in dollars and publicity.

Several nonprofit groups whose contributions from Avon were drastically cut –and a few who received nothing at all – have asked the Town Council Tuesday to reconsider.

Last year, Avon gave the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau $25,000. This year the group isn’t set to receive a dime from Avon for 2003.

“We spend that money for you in a couple of ways that really generate revenue for the town of Avon,” Steve Pope, president of the bureau’s board of directors, told the council at its meeting Tuesday evening.

In last year’s race for Avon Town Council, candidates spoke extensively about the need for Avon and other valley towns to cooperate more closely on attracting visitors and enhancing the economy. The council, however, shunned the bureau – which does exactly that sort of work.

(Though the 2003 budget was approved before the new Town Council was installed, the only change was the departure of Mayor Judy Yoder and the election of Councilman Ron Wolfe.)

Pope, also publisher of the Vail Daily, said the bureau has been keenly focused on Avon this year as The Home Depot and Wal-Mart are set to open in the Village at Avon in the spring or summer.

“We need to help all the small businesses learn how to compete,” Pope said.

The Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau has sponsored a series of talks on how small business in other American cities have coped with the arrival of big boxes.

Pope also pointed out one of the bureau’s key efforts is to promote lodges and hotels in the valley.

Avon gave the Vail Valley Foundation $10,000 to run the Birds of Prey World Cup Downhill on Beaver Creek Mountain in December. But the group, which in 2002 received $47,500 from Avon, is hoping for another $40,000 in contributions for other events, such as the celebrity American Ski Classic and the Vail International Dance Festival, said Paul Chadwick, the Foundation’s director of corporate sales.

This year’s American Ski Classic will be broadcast on network television in the fall, Chadwick said.

Buckley said Avon doesn’t get much from the Ski Classic because it’s held at Vail, but Councilman Brian Sipes disagreed, saying some spectators probably stay in Avon.

“We’re still one valley,” Sipes said. “If we get a percentage of the guests staying in medium-priced lodging, it’s a benefit for (Avon).”

Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, which puts on concerts at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail and the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, also isn’t slated to receive any money from Avon. The organization, which received $50,000 last year, was hoping for a similar amount of more this year. John Giovando, president of the festival, told the council concerts could be held in Avon if the town had a place to hold them.

“If there were a venue here, there’d be an orchestra here,” Giovando said.

A pair of therapists from Colorado West Mental Health urged the council to help keep the agency’s Glenwood Springs detoxification center open. The facility, which also helps addicts in recovery, is the closest on to Eagle County.

Colorado West Mental Health’s Diane Schlough said Colorado has the second highest rate of substance abuse in the country. Those statistics, she added, are “skewed” toward the Western Slope.

“If we weren’t there, the alternatives are (Vail Valley Medical Center) or the jail,” Schlough said. “The hospital is an expensive alternative, and jail is a non-clinical solution.”

The council was also asked to fund the Vail International Hockey teams trip to Russia in December. The team is made up of middle school students from across the county. Councilwoman Debbie Buckley called the trip a great program, and if the town was “flush” with money it would contribute.

“I can’t justify sending kids on a trip when we’re not giving our staff raises,” she said.

To save money, the council decided not to give town workers raises in 2003.

The Town Council, which doesn’t appear any more optimistic about the town’s finances, is now considering upping its contributions to nonprofit organizations.

“The more an event can be shown to contribute to the local economy,” Councilman Wolfe said, “the more incentive there is to support it.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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