“Something good is going to happen…”
Sometimes, a little communication can go a long way to break the ice. After being silent for the last several months, representatives of the East River Skating Association came before the Crested Butte Town Council, thanked them for their efforts and asked to be kept in their thoughts during the town budget process.
The council, in turn, set aside their frustration with the committee voiced the week before by the mayor and agreed to keep the idea of an ice rink near the top of their future wish list.
During last week’s budget work session, the council, led by a fired-up mayor Alan Bernholtz, expressed disappointment that the association had not kept in touch with the council. The town had set aside $300,000 in the 2008 budget toward an ice rink and spent hours of staff time on the potential project. Bernholtz voiced concern that while the town had gone out on a limb to support the idea of a new hockey facility, the East River Skating Association had essentially disappeared from the scene.
At the October 6 council meeting, Bill Coburn and John Mortell of the skating organization apologized for the miscommunication.
“When our main funding source pulled out earlier this year we became extremely frustrated and kind of took a break,” Coburn said. “For the record, we want to say that everything the town said they were going to do, they did. I regret that the town gets dragged through the mud over issues like this.”
For years, local developer Gary Garland had pledged to put up a million dollars toward a new ice rink, but backed out last summer when the process was taking longer than he had planned. He eventually withdrew his million-dollar offer and has since relocated to the Park City area.
Coburn explained that the ice committee met last week and decided to step back and see what happens with the school bond issue during the upcoming election. “If it passes it will make a big difference,” he said. “The rink can be moved closer to the school where the Tommy V baseball field is now. We know and appreciate the wetlands work the town did on the current proposed site and even if the facility moved closer to the school, the wetlands work will be beneficial to the town. We also want to see the results of the town survey that was sent out this past summer.”
Coburn explained that a new group comprised of citizens from local arts or recreation boards has been meeting to figure out ways to raise operating costs for future projects in arts and recreation. “We have an idea to try to pass a Gunnison Metropolitan Recreation sub-district from Crested Butte South up the valley. If voters approve the issue next year, the subcommittee could raise $500,000 a year strictly for operational costs for a lot of future projects,” Coburn explained. “We have been meeting with Met-Rec board members and may try to get something on the ballot next year.”
Coburn also told the council that Garland had put a $200,000 deposit down with the General Steel company on a metal building for the proposed ice rink. The company has said the deposit is still there and can be applied to a new building. “So we may not have the million dollars we thought we had but we have some seed money,” he said.
The East River Skating Association still wants to pursue building a new structure, instead of covering the current Big Mine Park Ice Rink. “It would probably be a bare-bones rink at first, but we feel having it over by the school on a sports campus makes sense,” Coburn said. “We feel it is also more likely to appeal to potential donors.”
Bernholtz appreciated the presentation by Coburn. “It is good to have this update,” he said. “I had no idea of the drive to garner operating funds. That is a great idea. And while the budget is very tight this year for the town, I would suggest you maybe come to the budget work sessions.”
The mayor also suggested getting the new Parks and Recreation director, Jake Jones, involved in the East River Skating Committee discussions. Coburn agreed that getting Jones involved was a good idea, but the former councilmember didn’t commit to attending another budget meeting.
“The council still believes that having a covered rink is a good idea for the community,” assured Bernholtz. “Like you, we want to see the results of the town survey. But keep up the momentum. Something good is going to happen. I can tell.”
While the council didn’t reinstate the $300,000 budget line for a potential ice rink, they made it clear the money could still be there for a viable project in the near future.