Town Council floats Skier Building idea again
AVON — The town manager wants to relocate Town Hall to the Skier Building and is recommending certificate of participation bonds for a relocation of the police department. Both the Town Hall relocation to the Skier Building and certificate of participation bonds were the subject of a voter referendum earlier this year.
Tax increment financing bonds are being recommended for the purchase of the Skier Building, part of the 2016 budget, which is expected to be voted on Nov. 10.
The current price tag on the Skier Building has not been disclosed, but Town Manager Virginia Egger told the council that using tax increment financing bonds to obtain $5-6 million in necessary funds to purchase and remodel the Skier Building was an opportunity not to be missed.
“Those don’t go to the ballot, those can’t go to a referendum,” Egger said.
Tax increment financing bonds can be used in urban renewal projects where future property tax revenues are dedicated to paying off the loans used for the areas that have been improved. An urban renewal area that includes the skier building was created in 2007.
Following the meeting, Mayor Jennie Fancher said she would support the tax increment financing if the town could negotiate a better price on the Skier Building than was originally presented prior to the referendum.
“I don’t think that the election was a majority of the people getting out and voting,” she said Wednesday.
Of the 647 total ballots received in the special election, 418 came in against and 229 in favor of using certificate of participation bonds on a $3.2 million purchase price for the building. A few months earlier, the town of Avon logged a voter total of 1,487 in the November election.
PUBLIC LAND USES
The suggestion to relocate Town Hall was among the primary recommendations from Stan Clauson Associates of Aspen, which was contracted by the town to look at best use scenarios for public land as part of Avon’s budget planning for 2016.
Patrick Rawley, of Stan Clauson Associates, said the current Town Hall is an old building in need of replacement and Nottingham Park needs to be supported by the resources the town has available in that area.
“Relocating Town Hall gives us this opportunity,” he said. “While Town Hall could turn and support the park and support the venue, it’s taking the space of other community gathering spots that could be created and maybe is not the most efficient use of the space down in the southeastern corner of the park.”
Rawley’s other suggestions included using the town-owned land at Swift Gulch for affordable housing, using the town-owned lot on the east end of town near Home Depot (known as Lot 5) for a public works site, and pursuing the idea to use the recently obtained Buck Creek lot as a joint public safety facility for police and fire services.
The estimated cost for the Avon Police Department’s portion of that joint public safety facility is currently around $8 million. That’s still preliminary and includes some contingencies.
Most of the council agreed that number was too high for their liking.
The current plans call for 17,000 square feet for the police department, up from the 5,000 the department is currently working with. Councilman Buz Reynolds said he would like to see the building designed in a way where it would start smaller than the 17,000 square feet but could be expanded as the community grows.
Staff said they will return before the council on Oct. 27 with suggestions on how to cut the cost down.
Regardless of what the eventual cost would be, certificate of participation bonds — annually renewed loans that do not require voter approval — are being recommended by the town staff as the financing mechanism. The certificate of bonds would be paid for out of the town’s real estate transfer tax fund.
The town council was divided on the issue. Reynolds and Sarah Smith Hymes said they support taking out bonds without voter approval, while Fancher, Megan Burch and Jake Wolf indicated they would want to go to the voters when it comes to the use of certificate of participation bonds.
“It’s not a favored term in town,” Fancher said. “I think (public voting on the issue) is the right thing to do.”
Smith Hymes said the town has used certificate of participation bonds for capital projects in the past.
“Not that I don’t want to hear what the voters have to say, but we’ve traditionally used COPs and nobody has said anything about it,” she said. “So that’s why I kind of wonder why we go to the voters.”
Reynolds said with the rising costs of construction in the valley, timing should be considered.
“If we see a good deal … I think we need to act on it,” he said.
The council plans to examine the police facility and Town Hall relocation issues again in a work session Oct. 27.