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Towns question county’s policy on recreation spending

Kathy Heicher

Prompted by recent newspaper articles reporting county involvement in funding recreation facilities at the Berry Creek property in Edwards, the mayors of the three towns have sent a joint letter to the county commissioners asking them to clarify their stance.

The three towns are involved in building and operating their own recreation facilities. Avon operates a recreation center; Eagle, working with the Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District, is nearing completion of an outdoor swimming pool and indoor ice rink; and Gypsum, also working with the rec district, is planning a community recreation facility.

In their letter, the towns make it clear they would welcome financial participation from the county in their recreation projects. The letter, signed by Avon Mayor Buz Reynolds, Eagle Mayor Roxie Deane and Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver, was authorized by all three town councils.

The towns are seeking clarification on whether the county plans to fund recreation facilities now or in the future. The letter notes that past county governing boards have stated the county is not in the recreation business. That’s the reason the towns have not asked for county funding of recreation facilities, the letter states.

“If the county is now changing policy to fund or partially fund recreation facilities, the towns applaud that move,” the letter states.

The towns are collectively requesting the county develop a valleywide recreation needs study, then, with the input of “stakeholders,” develop a policy for spending county money on recreation facilities.

“County monies should be spread throughout the county and partnerships formed to maximize use of funds,” the letter states.

The letter also cites the towns’ concerns over “rumors” the county is pursuing a recreation center at Edwards.

“A recreation center in Berry Creek seems frivolous to the towns as an existing recreation center operates seven miles away in Avon with expansion plans waiting until sufficient funds are available,” the letter states.

The towns predict a countywide needs study would likely identify the Eagle-Gypsum area as the place where the next recreation center in the valley should be developed.

At press time, the commissioners were in the process of writing a response.

“The newspapers say the county is building a $30 million recreation center at Berry Creek. That’s just not the fact. We don’t know if we’re going to build anything,” said County Commission Chairman Michael Gallagher.

Gallagher said the county is merely studying the feasibility of a recreation facility at Edwards.

“It would make no sense to build a recreation facility that wouldn’t be used,” he said.

The cost of that study is being funded through donations from the private sector. Gallagher also said the county has invested money in recreation facilities in different communities, such as development of the Eagle County Fairgrounds at Eagle, development of recreation fields at El Jebel and the creation of some new soccer fields at Berry Creek.

“There is no policy change,” said Gallagher

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County to meet with towns Monday

Eagle County is inviting its towns over for a little chat.

Following weeks of rumblings from various town leaders questioning how the county uses its revenues, the county has invited the towns to a face-to-face session Monday at 3 p.m. in the county administration offices in Eagle.

“This will be our opportunity to do a presentation on our budget,” County Administrator Jack Ingstad said last week.

Commissioner Chairman Michael Gallagher said he wants to be sure the towns have an opportunity to bring up their concerns.

“We have to be as fast listening as we are talking,” said Gallagher.

Past boards of commissioners have attempted to meet with towns quarterly.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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