Proposed West Grand rec district to revisit service plan | SkyHiNews.com

Proposed West Grand rec district to revisit service plan

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

The Three Rivers Park and Recreation District Committee will head back to the drawing board after the proposed district's biggest property owner opted out.

Climax Molybdenum Company, which operates the Henderson Mill in Grand County, wrote a letter to the Grand County Board of Commissioners requesting that it be excluded from the proposed district.

The board of commissioners held a public hearing on the district's service plan on Tuesday, June 21.

Scott Spade and Rebecca Guthrie, committee members and spokespeople for the proposed district, told commissioners that they were taken off guard by Climax's request for exclusion and initially challenged whether the request was submitted in time.

Climax accounts for almost $96 million of the $161 million in real and personal property within the district's boundaries, said Dan Korkowski, the county's deputy assessor.

The contributions from Climax would have accounted for 60 to 65 percent of the district's budget, Spade said.

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Though Climax's request did meet the legal deadline, the detail was trivial.

Colorado Revised Statutes dictate that no service plan may be approved if the owners of more than 50 percent of taxable real and personal property in a proposed district object to its formation.

"No matter how you look at these numbers, when you start deducting these numbers off of the total taxable assessed values, Climax does have over 50 percent on every level unless they vote to take all of their accounts out, including personal property and the natural resource accounts," Korkowski said. "It's not good news for the proposed district, but that's the bottom line for it."

Guthrie and Spade ultimately recommended that the commissioners grant Climax its exclusion and expressed frustration at what they said was Climax's unwillingness to negotiate with their committee.

"They are not cooperating," Spade said. "I don't believe they have any intent to cooperate or work with us in any fashion."

The loss of such a large portion of the district's tax base nixes its primary goal, which was to construct a pool facility in Kremmling.

The district committee had estimated the cost of a pool would have been around $4 million.

Instead, Guthrie said the district would shift focus to other services like transportation.

"We're not going to build a swimming pool at this point," Guthrie said. "If we can take our seniors and our kids to Silverthorne or over here to Fraser and still have them enjoy a pool, that would be a win-win."

The district would help the community get the maximum benefit from its existing recreational infrastructure by centralizing the efforts of multiple organizations, Spade said.

"All of these facilities exist," Spade said. "What we're trying to do as this district is enhance them, fully utilize them."

Staff recommends resubmittal

County staff recommended that the district committee resubmit a more detailed service plan.

Grand County Planning Director Bill Gray said there seemed to be a need for the district but he would like to see more quantifiable data to support that conclusion.

"It would be staff's recommendation that, as with the planning commission, that we get more hard data that would support that this need exists within the community," Gray said.

The district would improve recreational opportunities in western Grand County, which is a goal set forth in Grand County's Master Plan, Gray said.

Staff recommended that the new service plan reflect service changes resulting from the district's transition to "more of a simply service oriented special district," Gray said.

Gray also asked that the new service plan's financial side reflect the district's new tax base.

Responding to Grays comments, Spade said he believed that the committee wasn't required to gather data on the community need for the district until after the service plan was approved.

"Not to sound facetious, but I could have buried you with a mound of petitions," Spade said. "As of today those signatures would be worthless."

Funding questions

With the loss of more than half of its tax base, the proposed district's committee must reassess its plans for revenue and tailor its service plan accordingly.

It was never the district's intention to rely solely on revenue from property taxes, Guthrie said.

"We haven't just stopped at saying we want to collect tax money," Guthrie said. "We're looking at again large private donors, land buildings, grants. We've spoken to [Colorado Department of Local Affairs]."

Guthrie hinted at some of the changes that may be made to the district's service plan, including eliminating a proposed 2.04 mill levy to fund the pool.

"It's not appropriate to disseminate that amongst the remaining taxpayers," Guthrie said.

The district would also lower its proposed operation and maintenance mill levy from 4.21 mills to a maximum of 3.5, Guthrie said.

If its service plan is approved, the district must then be approved by the Grand County District Court.

Then the district's organization, board of directors and operation and maintenance mill will go before voters, Guthrie said.

The committee still hopes to have those questions on the November ballot.

The hearing on the new service plan has been continued until Aug. 4 at 5 p.m.

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