What will Vail spend $8.6 million on?
VAIL ” Vail has lots of ideas for the $8.6 million it collected for the ill-fated conference center.
The money could be used for affordable housing, the hot-button issue of the hour in Vail. Or road repairs. Or parks and trails. Voters would have to approve a new use for the funds, and that could happen this November.
Robert Aikens, a Vail resident and business owner, said he would like the town to spend the money on supporting tourism.
“The more people they can bring in, the better,” he said.
Aikens said he almost lost his business, Verbatim Booksellers, because of impacts of construction o hotels and other projects.
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“A lot of the construction is over or almost over,” he said. “Now, we need to bring people into town to fill those beds.”
Aikens also said he supports using the money to build a fire station in West Vail.
But some hoteliers aren’t happy about the wide-ranging choices the town still has on the drawing board. Mark Cervantes of the Holiday Inn in West Vail said the money should still be spent on what it was collected for: a conference center.
“The reality is that money was not collected for any other ideas short of a conference center,” he said.
The money could be used to enhance the proposal of the developer that wants to rebuild the Lionshead parking structure, Cervantes said.
The proposal includes a conference center. For instance, the money could be used to pay for a multimedia facility for that center, Cervantes said.
The town should hold off until it has a good plan for the money that will accomplish its original goal, said Frank Johnson, general manager of the Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa.
“It was a pretty good coalition of businesses ” lodging, restaurant and retail ” who made this thing happen and were willing to take the risk of taxing their guests at a higher rate to bring business to the community with a conference center,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he’s not sure any of the current proposals would effectively accomplish the original goal.
“There’s no compelling reason to do something today,” he said
The town is considering conducting a poll of voters that would ask them how to use the money. The ideas include:
– Promoting tourism and special events to attract year-round visitors to Vail.
– More employee housing, including loans for first-time home buyers.
– Improving parks, trails and bike paths.
– Renovating Dobson Arena to so it can host a wider range of events.
– Environmental projects such as recycling, energy efficiency and combatting the pine beetle infestation.
– Road repairs.
– Renovations to the library, the fire station or other public buildings.
– Keeping the money for other purposes as they are identified.
The money was collected from taxes approved in 2002 for a publicly funded conference center, but voters rejected the conference center in 2005.
The Town Council will decide at its meeting tonight whether the town should proceed with the poll. The council would have to approve a ballot question by Aug. 21 for this November’s election.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.