Council puts allocated money back in general fund until more research completed
The most heated debate in the Crested Butte budget discussion Monday evening came over whether to keep a 2008 budget line item for a proposed ice rink facility. The council last year “fenced in” $300,000 for the rink in a show of support for the project. The project has gone nowhere, and after local developer Gary Garland took back his pledge of $1 million for a rink, the idea of a facility in town seemed to have melted away.
Mayor Alan Bernholtz asked Parks and Recreation director Jake Jones to touch base with the East River Skating Association and see where its members are with the situation.
Councilman Skip Berkshire said that while the council has remained supportive of the idea, “I don’t know how we can read the tea leaves of what [the skating association] want[s]. I haven’t heard a thing from them in months.”
Bernholtz said he was extremely disappointed with how the situation has evolved. “They (ice rink proponents) told me they want to wait to see how the school bond issue comes out, and frankly I told them if they wanted something they need to come in now during the budget sessions,” he said. “The ball is 150 percent in their court and I feel like we’ve been jerked around and been left hanging out to dry. We were very supportive and took a lot of heat from people in town and I just feel ripped off.
“Even when Garland backed out, we continued with the wetland study but didn’t hear a thing from the hockey community,” a fired up Bernholtz continued. “I feel like we put a lot of time and money into this and I don’t know about you but I feel like a lot of people in town ripped me a new one over this issue. We were very supportive and I just feel ripped off. I am having a hard time with the idea of setting aside money for them right now.”
Berkshire agreed. “We wanted to send a strong message of support and that was the reason we fenced off that money. I don’t see a reason to do it this year,” he said. “The money is there if they get their act together but they need to talk to us now and not just speak to one council member.”
Council member Kimberly Metsch suggested the town keep the money set aside and look into the cost of covering the current Big Mine ice rink. Jones said he felt like the money was driving the vision for a new rink and he’d like to see the town “take back the reins” and see how the community wants to proceed.
Town manager Susan Parker said the town survey currently being tabulated, along with a recreation master plan slated to be produced next year, could shed some insight into the situation.
The council “unfenced” the money earmarked for the ice rink in 2008 and set it free, back into the general capital fund.
Members of the East River Skating Committee plan to meet this week to discuss the situation.