Colorado Springs City Council members left City Hall Monday afternoon with even more questions than resolved answers concerning the proposed resolution to the controversial City for Champions project.
In a special meeting only addressing the City For Champions project, City Council discussed 11 resolutions that, upon perfecting the order, language, and intent, the Council hopes will help structure the project in the most fiscally efficient manner with the most citizen input and investment return.
The key points brought up in the meeting will also be used at the meeting of the new advisory board created to oversee the project in its early stages on Wednesday morning.
Although some of the resolution points were read without any further discussion, most prompted critical questioning. The council members emphasized the need for citizen participation, a clause highlighted in the first resolution, but not all agreed with the pending detailed budget to be placed on the ballot.
“I will support them [City for Champions] putting their project together, but I will never support committing city funds without the vote of the people,” said District 6 Councilman Andy Pico. “If the people of Colorado Springs, especially those in my district, pass this, I’ll support it.”
District 5 Councilwoman Jill Gaebler did not outright oppose a citizen vote, but pointed out that the City Council had not relied on citizen vote for decisions in the past on large projects like the $1 billion Southern Delivery System water program.
“If we are honest about this subject, we will acknowledge that we have never once gone to the vote of the people,” Gaebler said. “We have always gone through finance committees and the City Council. Going to the vote is just not ordinary. Not to say that we shouldn’t do that now, but we have to work slow and thoughtfully on these issues.”
District 2 Councilman Joel Miller underlined the ambiguities in ownership of the completed project venues after Principal Analyst in the city’s Economic Development Division, Bob Cope, explained that all four venues are capital projects, and that they will act as private operating entities.
“Who is ‘they’? Right now we [the City of Colorado Springs] are the only the only operating entity,” said Miller. “It’s the most expensive project, and we don’t even know who is going to run it. There’s such a lack of transparency here. How can we go through with that?”
Miller further argued that if the contract to accept state money, which must be submitted by April 16, were signed without the proper resolutions in place, the city and the taxpayers would take on the costs of delaying or canceling one of the four buildings
“It is a sink or swim proposition. The minute we start to spend the money the state gave us, we are obligating the city to pay for these projects,” Miller said. “If any of the projects start building and the public says [they] don’t want them, who’s going to pay the state back? Signing the contract commits us to that. So, yes, we do need to move quickly on this.”
In addition to his questions, Miller designed an alternate resolution that focused on how this project and its budget would be put on the ballot and what needs to be included in the contract the Council will sign with the state.
Jan Martin, Councilwoman At-Large, remained silent throughout most of the meeting until City Council President Keith King called for any final remarks.
“I do think that we’ll have a lot of questions answered between now and April 16. I can honestly say that all the previous projects started as ideas like this and grew,” said Martin. “The way to move forward, though, is for the city and the county to create a joint resolution. In its current form, I would not be able to support this city resolution.”