A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial supporting the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District’s bid to de-Bruce the district. The move essentially would have allowed the Met Rec District to keep tax monies collected as property values rise instead of giving those dollars back to property owners.
The measure failed by 59 votes countywide. In the three precincts located from Jack’s Cabin north, voters passed the measure with 68 percent "yes" votes and 32 percent "no" votes. In the rest of Gunnison County, 42 percent checked the "yes" box while 58 percent of voters said "no" to the ballot question.
The Met Rec District, created in 1978, is funded through property taxes as a means to bring free television to the Gunnison Valley. The service area includes nearly all of Gunnison County and a small section of Saguache County. With extra funds on its hands, the district expanded its mission in 2000 to include promoting arts and recreation in the county and started providing grants to area non-profit organizations.
Last week, Met Rec board president Joel Vosburg surmised that citizens were telling the district they didn’t support how it was spending taxpayer money. However, the board disagrees on where it feels taxpayer priorities lie. Vosburg argues that many Crested Butte citizens want the district to scale back its maintenance of the expensive translator system that provides free television service to the county, in favor of providing more money for recreation and arts programs.
On the other hand, board members Steve Bathje and Bob Beda say many Gunnison area residents feel the district should maintain its current model of concentrating on television service and providing some funds to arts and recreation. Bathje makes the valid argument that some citizens cannot afford television service and the district provides a needed form of free entertainment.
The stances reflect where Gunnison and Crested Butte are in terms of building arts and recreation facilities and programming.
City of Gunnison residents recently approved 1 percent sales tax increase to fund its new swimming pool, indoor ice rink and expanded trail system. With one tax increase already approved, it’s understandable that Gunnison voters would be hesitant to okay another.
However, Crested Butte voters are still grappling with how to fund expanded arts and recreation programming with plans for a swimming pool, indoor ice rink and larger performing arts center all up for consideration. These facilities are needed to make the area more attractive for visitors and contribute to Crested Butte’s long-term economic sustainability. The Met Rec District seems like the logical choice to be able to regionalize some funding for these efforts.
It seems that two areas of the district have two different priorities. Fortunately, the differences are reflected in sub-districts that the Met Rec has already established—one from Round Mountain north and a second encompassing the rest of the county.
Within the Crested Butte district, area citizens can tell the district where they want their money spent. Locally, I believe the television translator system has outlived its usefulness. The money could be better spent on our current priorities.
I propose urging the Met Rec District to abandon the translator system in the Round Mountain sub-district and funnel our tax dollars into arts and recreation funding. For those disadvantaged Crested Butte citizens who are still using the television service, the Met Rec District could establish a scholarship fund to defray costs of cable television. The Gunnison district could continue to spend its funding on maintaining the translator system for the southern portion of the county.
If you agree—or if you don’t—I urge you to contact the Met Rec District directly. In addition, all five seats on the Met Rec’s board will be up for election in May 2008. If you’re interested in steering the future of arts and recreation around Crested Butte, I urge you to seek a seat. For more information on the district, visit www.gcmetrec.com.