Back to the drawing board | VailDaily.com

Back to the drawing board

Don Rogers
Our View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

The owners of the Skier Building lowered its price within a week of Avon voters rejecting the deal.

That ought to tell you everything you need to know about this near fiasco.

Meantime, the mayor has stepped decisively into her role. There’s hope yet for this town’s leadership. The town council voted unanimously Tuesday to cancel the Skier Building contract. Another positive step.

Some fragments of hubris still floated in comments from a couple of council members still wedded to an agreement and a vision shown to be so at odds with facts and reality. Perhaps this is understandable. Can’t be easy letting go of what you insisted was a worthy, even thoughtful vision even as it is exposed for the fever it really was. But the greater mood was more humble, and resolute.

The challenges of upgrading municipal buildings remain. Renovate or scrape the current town hall? Same question with the fire station across the street.

Will the Eagle River Fire Protection District build its own facility on land on the north side of Avon, and might Avon’s police department move there, too?

Will the council cling to this mirage that essentially a back alley behind the recreation center and Seasons Building can be coaxed into a bustling shopping district?

However it goes from here, the public should have a much larger share now in shaping Avon decisions.

Most of the council seemed to feel the full weight of the voters’ 2-to-1 rejection of the town’s plans for the Skier Building. Make no mistake, this was a blow.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

It’s also a great opportunity to quit mouthing truisms about transparency and practice it.

This should include a concerted effort to make sure documents like the town’s “Fact Sheet” on the Skier Building are something more than a smelly bag of assertions favoring a bad sale that prove untrue. I found this perhaps the starkest sign of something very off in town hall.

Councilman Matt Gennett, a community planner by profession, made by far the most sense in the council discussion about what to do next.

How about starting with the beginning? What are the actual needs of the town for their town hall? Somewhat incredibly, the town government never took independent stock of its needs, actual costs of options nor apparently thought much about a 2007 grand plan that doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s town.

Gennett suggested this cart should come before the horse pulls it anywhere, including the possibility of buying the Skier Building at a lower price. It may make more sense to put town hall where the fire station now sits. Or simply upgrade where they are now, if they can assure themselves that they wouldn’t throw good money after bad for the project — a question that might have been more seriously considered with the infamously “fast-tracked” stage that still isn’t finished.

At least with the fever for the Skier Building cooled, there’s a chance to look more rationally at the options.

The mayor had a nice suggestion to assemble an informal advisory group to do exactly this. Some normal fussing ensued about who should be on this committee.

FULL RANGE OF VIEWS

I hope the selection of members addresses what largely was missing in the push for the Skier Building purchase — a full range of views. Opponents of the plan rejected in the referendum who have expertise should exchange views with supporters with expertise. That’s the whole point.

If I were waving this wand, I’d select this group for real knowledge in commercial real estate, commercial construction, financing and municipal planning. Remember, these advisers won’t replace the planning commission or town council, which still will have their jobs to do.

I’d try to check for stubborn bias in either direction, as with jury selection. The mission here should be a fair-minded quest for best information and let that guide a well-founded and prudent recommendation.

After all, the Skier Building at the right price might well make sense. Or not. If anyone from the council participates, they need an open mind as well as the ability to grasp the nuances in play here.

Proof of success with this fresh path will rest not in a bag of dog droppings that one lady held up at the meeting ostensibly about the Skier Building — declaring, “I have the evidence!” — but in a fact sheet that has some facts instead of bearing a similar whiff as that bag.

Meantime, I’d call the council and mayor’s reactions Tuesday a nice start in a better direction. They seemed quite intent on cutting the crap going forward.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.