Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hailey votes Tuesday on $3.5 million bond

Tax increase would fund about half of rodeo grounds redevelopment


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer


Graphic by Ruscitto, Latham, Blanton architects Plans for the Hailey Rodeo Grounds redevelopment project include a new, multi-purpose rodeo arena, a covered ice rink, expanded skatepark and a visitor center.

What began two years ago with the results of a citizen survey has led to a major decision for Hailey voters next week. On Tuesday, May 25, they will decide whether to raise their taxes for 10 years to help pay for a $6 million-$7 million redevelopment of the Hailey Rodeo Grounds at the south end of town.

If more than two-thirds of voters turning out Tuesday support the proposed $3.5-million general obligation bond, Hailey could see construction begin this summer on a new, multi-purpose rodeo arena, a covered ice rink, expanded skatepark and visitor center on the 5.2-acre site. The city would own all buildings and improvements.

City officials say they will not move forward with the tax increase and development schedule until sufficient private donations are in place to match the public funds and build all the planned facilities, but a "yes" vote will authorize the City Council to do so.

The move to redevelop Hailey's historic rodeo grounds began in 2008 when a citizen survey ranked the project No.1 on a list of potential projects the city could undertake. Comparatively low construction costs during the recession and a need for jobs added to the City Council's enthusiasm for the project. For two years, the Hailey Parks and Lands Board has been working with the Sawtooth Rangers riding club, nonprofit Hailey Ice, Hailey Skatepark enthusiasts and other volunteers to create a master plan for the area that would provide for year-round recreation. Last fall, the City Council pledged to match up to half the cost of the proposed redevelopment with capital funds and/or voter-approved funding. The master plan was approved in October. The Hailey Parks and Lands Foundation has raised about $100,000 for the city's portion of the development.

The May 25 bond vote will indicate just how much support the council has for the project, and could lead to a substantial donation from an anonymous donor to cover the cost of building and maintaining the largest building in the proposed rodeo grounds redevelopment, the ice rink.

The planned 3,500-seat rodeo arena is being called a "multi-use arena" and could also be used for concerts, farmers' markets and other community events. It would cost $1.9 million to build and be managed by the city after the Sawtooth Rangers' lease expires this year. The Rangers would continue to hold the Days of the Old West Fourth of July Rodeo in the arena each year. The ice rink would cost from $2.4 million to $3.9 million, depending upon the amount of donations. The skatepark expansion would cost $200,000. A visitors center and interpretive center next to the multi-use arena would cost $380,000. About $600,000 would be spent in the beginning stages on infrastructure and site work on the entire 5.2-acre property.

The council has already spent $70,000 on designs for the overall development.

The ice rink would be built and managed privately, while the rodeo arena, skatepark expansion and visitors center would be undertaken as a public works project managed by the city.

The refrigerated ice rink was originally expected to cost $2.4 million and provide skating from Nov. 1 to April 1. Two weeks ago, Hailey Ice representatives told the City Council that a potential donor inspired the group to expand plans for the facility by 10,000 square feet and turn it into a four-season recreational facility that could accommodate tennis, basketball, inline skating and other sports. The newly designed facility would cost $3.9 million, which attorney Jim Laski, who was hired by Hailey Ice to negotiate the donation, said he hopes will be paid by the donor, who he said chooses to remain anonymous.

"If the bond passes, he plans to be here in June and meet with city officials to establish the scope of his donation and the scope of the ice rink facility," Laski said

After looking for 10 years for a place to build, Hailey Ice has raised about $550,000 to help pay for the rink. The group has drawn up a 20-year lease with the city in anticipation of completing the rink. Hailey Ice representative Ron Fairfax said fees from hockey tournaments and other skating events will pay for management and operations of the facility. He also said the expected donation would provide an endowment to cover additional or unexpected costs.

Under the proposed lease agreement, Hailey Ice would be responsible for covering all maintenance and operations costs associated with the facility. The city would manage the rest of the rodeo grounds facilities and take care of snow removal on the entire property.

City Public Works Director Tom Hellen said maintenance and operations costs for the new rodeo multi-use arena will be paid from user's fees, though the amount of such fees have not been determined. The city projects maintenance and operations costs for the rodeo multi-use arena and the interpretive center to be $30,200 annually.

"The intent is that user's fees will pay for these costs, rather than taxpayers," Hellen said.

He said the proposed skatepark expansion would not increase maintenance costs in a significant way. The popular park was built six years ago with $280,000 in private donations and was given "world-class status" by a skateboard magazine. Today it costs the city about $12,000 per year to maintain the skatepark.

Architect Nick Latham, who was hired by the city to draw up a master plan for the project, said it will take 18 to 24 months to complete the entire redevelopment. He said about 100 jobs would be created during construction. Only contractors with public works certifications will be able to bid on the city's portion of the development, but Hellen said Hailey Ice could accept bids from any contractors.

Hockey enthusiast and painting contractor Jay Hedrick said the rodeo grounds redevelopment would bring an economic boon to the city beyond the 100 jobs Latham says it will create during construction.

"Each hockey tournament can bring $18,000 into the city," he said. "People will come with their families and spend money here."

But Hailey Planning and Zoning Commissioner Geoffrey Moore has spoken out several times against the bond, saying it hits taxpayers at a bad time.

"I support the idea of the redevelopment, but this is bad timing," Moore said in an interview. "Give it a year and let fundraising take its chances. If the economy rebounds, then move forward with the bond."

About the rodeo bond

When and where to vote:

On Tuesday, May 25, Hailey voters will cast ballots at the Community Campus from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on a $3.5 million bond and tax increase to pay for half the estimated cost of a new, multi-use arena, a covered ice rink, expanded skatepark and visitor center.

How it works:

If at least two-thirds of voters casting ballots vote in favor of the bond, Hailey residents would authorize a tax increase of $33 per $100,000 of property valuation. The tax increase could last for 10 years, the time required to pay off the bond.

If the bond is successful:

A homeowner in Hailey with property assessed at $300,000 and employing a $104,000 homeowner's exemption would pay $5.50 per month in tax increases.

If the bond is not successful:

Fundraising would continue; so far Hailey Ice and the Hailey Parks and Lands Foundation have raised $600,000 for the project.




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