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Carbondale residents to remain a `rec’less bunch, for now

Lynn Burton

Carbondale residents who have been following the bouncing ball toward a community recreation center have been thrown another curve.Residents won’t be asked in November whether the town should construct a 29,000-square-foot recreation center as town officials indicated last year. Instead, residents will be asked all kinds of recreation-related questions in a survey, early in 2003.Some of those questions will no doubt refer to a recreation center that was designed last year. Other questions are expected to range from the need for more ball fields, to more trails.The questions will be in a survey as part of a 10-year recreation master plan the Parks and Recreation Commission will propose during Carbondale’s upcoming budget process, said Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel.Jackel said he is drafting requests for proposals from planning firms, and estimates the master plan will cost $30,000 to $40,000. “But we might leave it open ended,” Jackel said.Carbondale funds its recreation facilities through a dedicated 0.5 percent sales tax that will expire at the end of 2010 unless voters extend it, Jackel said. Extending the tax beyond 2010 is where things became complicated last year. The following is a brief time line.-Last July, Carbondale settled on a recreation center design that features a pair of gyms and elevated running track, but not lap and leisure swimming pools. The cost was estimated at $6.28 million, plus an annual subsidy of $150,000 t0 $200,000. A vote would be required to extend the 0.5 cent recreation sales tax beyond 2010, so the town could issue 20 year bonds to fund the facility.-In August, Carbondale learned state statute apparently prevents Carbondale from extending the recreation sales tax, because the town is already over its total state sales tax limit, which includes a total town tax of 3.5 percent, 2.9 percent in state tax, and a 1 percent Garfield County tax. Carbondale was pushed over the state’s 7 percent sales tax cap when Garfield County increased its sales tax several years ago.-To get around the sales tax extension problem, Colorado State Representative Gregg Rippy introduced enabling legislation this year which would allow Carbondale residents to vote on whether to extend the 0.5 percent sales tax. Rippy’s bill sailed through the state house and senate, and became law.Jackel said Carbondale’s Parks and Recreation Commission started taking another look at the recreation center’s feasibility last year, after being told the facility would eat up all the $475,000 the recreation sales tax raises each year.”That was a real eye opener,” Jackel said.Other projects the town is considering, which would be funded from the recreation sales tax, include development of the Delaney property into a passive park, the creation of a whitewater kayak park on the Roaring Fork River, extending the old Highway 133 bridge over the Roaring Fork River as part of an effort to access Red HIll, more ball fields, improvements to the riding arena and more.Jackel said the proposed Crystal River Marketplace shopping center also entered into the Parks and Recreation Commission’s decision not to propose the recreation center be put on the November ballot.In a nutshell, the commission figured the Crystal River Marketplace, at build out, would double recreation sales tax revenues. With that extra money, Carbondale could pursue other recreation projects beside the recreation center. When the Crystal River Marketplace developer withdrew his application, and the future sales taxes vanished, the Parks and Recreation Commission decided not to ask the Board of Trustees to put the recreation center on the November ballot.Rather than focus on a recreation center for now, the Parks and Recreation Commission will propose the trustees include funding for a recreation master plan in the 2003 budget. Jackel said the current master plan is five years old and was done by town staffers. With an outside, professional planning firm, the town should be able to draft a master plan that will be useable for 10 years, Jackel said.Jackel said the master plan will not only look at demand for ball fields, parks and other facilities that quickly come to mind, but trails and bike paths as well.There are a lot of pieces to the Carbondale recreation puzzle. For example, one idea being considered by the Riding Arena Committee, which advises the Board of Trustees, is to build a covering over the arena. Jackel said a covering would extend the arena’s ice rink season six to eight weeks.Jackel said Carbondale is also considering recreation as a component to is economic development push.”So there are more far ranging implications (to the master plan) than people recognize,” he said.


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