Vail to decide on center in December
Paul Rondeau wonders if a decision on building a conference center, set for Dec. 20, is a “fast path.”Rondeau, a retired businessman and Vail resident since the 1970s, recently asked Vail Town Council members if there is a “go/no-go” decision date for proceeding with issuing debt for the proposed center.”Do you really have that decision in the process?” Rondeau asked council members last week. “If you fast-path this, you may end up with something you don’t really want.”Rondeau, who ran for a Town Council seat last November, said he supported the notion of the conference center “but not a conference center at any cost.” Voters in November 2002 passed a lodging tax to fund the center 851 to 807 votes. The open area between the Lionshead parking structure and Dobson Ice Arena is the most likely site for the facility.While Rondeau had to dash off to another meeting after expressing his concerns to the council, Councilman Kent Logan explained the town’s proposed time line to the rest of the audience.”We may decide not to go forward with this,” Logan said. “That hasn’t been ruled out.”Among other items, rising interest rates could derail issuing bonds as planned in December. At this point, Logan said, the budget is going to be tight to get a facility built for a proposed $42.5 million to $43.5 million. That price tag would require annual debt payments of about $2.7 million. The lodging tax generates about $3.3 million per year, but the remainder of the money collected would help offset the center’s operating costs over its first several years.”This project does have a risk,” Logan said. “It’s a venture perhaps unlike any other this town has taken on.” But, he added, there is a “go/no-go” point: Dec. 20, the date at which the Town Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on the first reading of an ordinance to issue debt.”That’s fine, providing people have enough backbone to make a decision,” Rondeau said. “There’s a lot of political pressure from the lodging community on this.”While much debate remains on the conference center, second-home owner representative Jim Lamont said he’s been impressed with the process so far.”The concerns we’ve raised have been embraced,” said Lamont, director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association. “I see you being very conservative so far.”However, Lamont said, now is the time to put additional time in the process if needed, in order to get the best possible facility for the town.Rondeau said as the process continues, he’s just looking for an honest discussion. “Don’t be afraid to give us all the facts,” he said.==========glance:Tick, tick, tickHere are the tentative public meeting points on a schedule that could end with the town of Vail issuing bonds in December to build a conference center for the town:•July 7: Public meeting, including a process update and review of the scope of the project• The week of Aug. 10: Open house and presentation by design teams. Design sketches will be available in the Vail library and at the farmers market.• Aug. 17: Town Council review of public input and a public hearing.• Sept. 7: Town Council decision on final design team election.• Dec. 20: Town Council chooses a general contractor, first reading of an ordinance to issue debt.