Vail Daily column: Full lineup on deck
Umps, pundits … seems like kind of the same thing. We call fair or foul, sometimes in bang-bang fashion, and get second guessed as we should. That’s just part of the, ahem, fun that comes with presuming to judge.
In the spirit of spring training for baseball, while every team’s a winner and local governments are swinging for the fences, here’s a run-through of some of the bigger decisions for boards and voters on deck, in order of importance:
1. Building a combined fire and police station in Avon, along with a new fire station fit for Edwards, our largest community, and a training facility in Minturn.
This is an easy call. Fair! Home run. Old, tired facilities that were too small in the first place can be better located and built for the next 50 years at $9 a month in additional property tax if your home is worth more than $1 million and in the case of the Avon police, no additional taxation. Even the hardest-bitten conservatives among us have to understand the life-and-safety necessity here.
2. Turning the butt ugly dirt lot next to the fairgrounds along the river in Eagle into a park and eventually improving a 3.5 stretch of the river with a 0.5 percent sales tax increase.
Fair! Home run. This one is closest to this, ahem, ump’s cruel heart, by dint of proximity to my house up Eby Creek Road north of town. The river could and should be a jewel for the town.
3. Instead of mucking up Battle Mountain with high-end chalets and possibly even private ski runs, trade the land with the Forest Service and build on the unused land on the Meadow Mountain parcel, leaving the popular recreational space to … recreation.
Fair! Ground rule double. Are you kidding? Do this. The pristine Battle Mountain is worth far more untouched than the land right around town. This is another easy call, unless you are caught up in this myth among some townspeople with severe amnesia that all developers must be evil by definition. A lot of these are the same folks who voted 90 percent in favor of the original plan to screw up Battle Mountain not so many years ago. This is a much better plan all the way around.
4. The school district is gearing up for another run at a property tax increase to improve the educational prospects and properties of our public schools. No proposals have been made public, yet.
Fair! Double down the line if the plan is specific and shows how taxpayers’ money will go to the best possible use with minimum of waste. Eagle County voters have shown they approve good plans and will reject ones less thought through. It’s time now, though. Look, our district actually is pretty great. Kids can get to Harvard from here, with a little help from their teachers, parents and the larger community. We all have a stake in K-12 education.
5. The town of Avon has reached an agreement to buy the Skier Building to renovate into a new town hall for $1.7 million less than the purchase voters turned down over a year ago in a referendum.
Fair! Sliding double. One of the chief critics then, Mark Kogan, an expert in commercial real estate, helped them negotiate the much better price and now supports the purchase at $1.5 million. That’s pretty good and makes a plan to move out of the old town hall to the new building much more viable. I don’t think it’s my imagination that town leaders have been more proactive and inclusive with the public over the past year, too.
6. The Edwards Metro District is asking its voters for a 1 percent sales tax increase in the district to help improve the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Edwards Spur Road with a roundabout or more lanes. The state would fund about 80 percent of the work, which would continue west along Highway 6 toward the trailer park.
Fair by a hair. Bunt single. The people most affected daily by the improvements can decide whether the improvements are worth the cost mainly to shoppers. Edwards, unincorporated, would still have a lower sales tax rate than any of the towns in the county. A maximum half-percent sales tax would perhaps take longer but get the job done.
7. Not fair because they’ve only hinted about swinging for tax increases and not committed themselves, to our knowledge anyway. But a sales tax for an airline subsidy like Steamboat Springs has or property tax increase for Eagle County Paramedic Services look like sure foul balls at this point.
There you go. I’m making some pretty liberal calls this time around. But it is about time for some prudent investments on long neglected parts of our community,. And these things won’t get cheaper.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2920.