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Vail sidesteps center question

Kaye Ferry

They may have dodged a bullet last Tuesday, but they’re going to have to dodge a canon ball somewhere down the line. I’m talking about the Vail conference center vote.In my opinion, the Town Council owed the public an up or down vote on this issue. Instead they fudged and avoided a real decision. One of our illustrious leaders suggested that this decision was a decision. I would challenge that statement. The Town Council agreed to study the issue and make a determination based on facts as presented by the committee. The facts were unequivocally clear. The money available is not sufficient to build the project in its current form or probably any other form for that matter. And it’s not off by any small amount. How does $17.2 million grab you? And that’s just for construction costs – operational losses are more and will last forever.I’ll tell you a funny story. On Wednesday morning, May 18, bright and early, you could have read my column stating the projected losses, based on numbers from the week before, were $5 million-$8 million.By 2:30 that same afternoon, at the conference center meeting, losses had grown to $10.1 million-$14.5 million. One week later, that top number had escalated to $17.2 million. At that rate, by the time we vote again in November we could be rivaling the national debt here in little old Vail, Colorado.But to get back on track, it wasn’t a decision, it was a side step. It was a postponement of a decision. What they should have done was decide, up or down. The ball would have been back in the court of the group that thinks we should go down in flames regardless of what the numbers say. They fit into the group that I regularly refer to as those that don’t want to be confused by the facts. So where are we now? Well after already having spent $1.2 million on the studies and plans, we’ve got a five-month reprieve to do more of the same. Spend more money, that is, on efforts that will produce nothing more than piles of papers and copious beaurocratic hours, all for the same result.The best guess estimate last Tuesday night was that the current lodging tax will have to double to produce the revenue necessary to proceed with this project in a form similar to what has been proposed. No significant downsizing; no major design changes; no huge alterations that would cause us to have to start over at square one and spend another $1.2 million; and three more years to get where we are today.This will come back to haunt them at a time when it will be even more uncomfortable to be held accountable, the November Town Council election. Because you see, four of the current council members are up for re-election: Cleveland, Donovan, Hitt, Moffett. While they were able to postpone taking a position last Tuesday, when the same question is asked at election time they’d better be sure that they’re on the right side of the issue or the conference center will not be the only thing gong down in flames when the votes are tallied.Another question that begs an answer: Where was the conference center committee when it was time to be counted? They spent close to three years and had more information than anyone and yet remained silent. Why is that the three outside observers could form an opinion and those that were charged to do so couldn’t? Shame on them. They’re even worse than the Town Council. Why would we ever bother to convene that group again? By the way, if the conference business is really as healthy as some would like you to believe, why is Denver, who just expanded their facility big time, going back to the voters for another 1 percent tax hike to support it? Of course, we must be smarter than they are. They waited for the paint to dry. We’re doing it before we even dig a hole. Also, didn’t HVS do the study for their expansion into the hotel business? Just asking.But we have another five months to get ready for that discussion, so let’s change topics for a moment. The Homestead Homeowners Association had a little “come to Jesus” meeting with their board and essentially said “What were you thinking?” The question on the table, for the second time, was Eaton Ranch. The board of directors had agreed to write a nice old check to the Vail Valley Foundation for the bogus purchase of the Edwards gravel pit, affectionately known to those cutting-edge insiders as the “Central Park” of the Vail Valley. But “wait!” said the homeowners. That’s our money, just by the way. And we don’t want it spent outside of Homestead. What a novel concept. At the end of the day, that philosophy won and the formerly approved Eaton Ranch expenditure will no longer be an Eaton Ranch expenditure. Thank the gods above that some sanity does prevail somewhere. Because I have a friend who thinks we all suffer from oxygen depravation here – and not just when we’re climbing stairs. The next appeal will be to the Singletree Property Owners Association Board. If you remember, the Homestead action is almost deja vu of what Singletree did on Bair Ranch. The board made a decision that the owners rescinded. And word just in: Edwards Metro District is on board, as well they should be as the biggest beneficiaries.So we’ll see. The GOCO (Greater Outdoors Colorado) application was withdrawn when it became clear that the Eaton fiasco doesn’t meet the criteria. And the clock keeps ticking. Central Park. What an imagination. Better yet, what a sales job. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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