Vail Town Council to consider three plans to use conference center funds

By Real Vail
April 5, 2011
An update on the status of potential concepts for a ballot issue to reallocate monies from the Conference Center Fund will take place during the April 5 regular session of the Vail Town Council. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. today and the topic is listed fourth on the agenda.

The council has been reviewing concepts representing the highest and best use for the $9.4 million fund after establishing a goal to ask voters to use the funds for a capital asset, either a new or enhanced existing facility, while providing a long-term benefit to the town to increase the overall economic vitality.

Three concepts have since evolved following interviews with a cross section of community members led by former councilman Kent Logan and initial review by the town council. An update on those concepts, including conceptual drawings and preliminary budget estimates, will be presented during the meeting by Town Manager Stan Zemler.

The projects under consideration include a remodel of the Golf Clubhouse with the addition of an indoor/outdoor events pavilion, estimated at $6.8 million; a remodel and expansion of the Vail Village Visitor Center to support a state of the art welcome and heritage center, estimated at $4.8 million; and expansion of the recreational fields at Ford Park which would allow for the addition of one full-sized soccer field on the site, estimated at $4.5 million. In a memorandum to the town council, Zemler has acknowledged the estimated costs for the three concepts exceed funding targets established previously and would require additional funding commitments.

Also to be reviewed Tuesday is a sample ballot question, possible election dates, a public outreach schedule and a proposed refund methodology if a ballot question fails to win voter approval. According to Zemler, one refund option would be for the town to suspend a small portion of the existing sales tax on lodging for a term of years or until the full refund amount is reached. As an example, if the sales tax on lodging only were reduced by .3 percentage points from 4 percent to 3.7 percent and lodging sales remained at 2010 levels, the unspent tax collections would be repaid in 20 years.

The Conference Center funds were collected following approval by voters in 2002 of a 1.5 percent lodging tax and a .5 percent sales tax for the purpose of building and operating a conference center. In 2005, voters rejected a second ballot issue that would have increased the lodging tax to cover additional costs of construction and operation of the conference center. In rejecting the tax increase, the electors also voted to terminate the existing tax and “either refund any remaining revenues from such taxes pursuant to such refund methodology as the town council determines or submit a question to the voters on how such revenues shall be used.” Since 2006, the council has been gathering information to submit a question to the voters in lieu of a refund.

Public comment will be encouraged during Tuesday's discussion. Additional information is available on the town's website at vailgov.com. Comments may be forwarded in advance of the meeting by emailing the town council at towncouncil@vailgov.com or contacting the council's voice mail at 479-1860, ext. 8.


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