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Colorado Springs City Council flip-flops, approves Olympic Museum funding request

March 14, 2017 Updated: March 22, 2017 at 9:29 am
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An artist's rendering of the new U.S. Olympic Museum. Design Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro; New York, NY.

In one of the wildest City Council meetings officials could recall, the U.S. Olympic Museum failed on a 5-4 vote Tuesday to get $200,000 from the City of Colorado Springs - until Councilman Keith King reversed that vote at the end of the meeting.

King has been virtually apoplectic over what he sees as the city's neglect of Bancroft Park since the bandshell caught fire in January.

Mayor John Suthers and his administration, meanwhile, were intent on procuring the Olympic Museum funding. During a council-mayor lunch before the meeting, Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner presented a report on the millions of dollars of tax revenue and thousands of job increases the museum would bring.

The Olympic Museum had applied for $500,000 from the city's Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax fund, seeking $200,000 this year, $200,000 in 2018 and $100,000 more from LART in 2019.

During the council meeting, King and Chief of Staff Jeff Greene went missing temporarily while a deal was cut.

"I will be moving to reconsider my vote on the USOC (Olympic Museum) because . I'm asking the city to allocate up to $500,000 for Bancroft Park - the same amount the city is asking for the USOC (museum)," King said upon returning to the meeting.

The council voted 6-3 - with Councilwoman Helen Collins and Councilmen Bill Murray and Andres G. Pico dissenting - to approve reconsideration of the earlier vote.

But before a new vote could be taken on the museum's request, Collins and Murray expressed outrage.

"The LART Committee was given a week's notice to consider this," Collins said. "This is a private project. I think it's terrible we're doing this at the end of the meeting, Keith. It's all about the public interest."

Said Murray: "What does one say when you sit here and watch the buying of votes? What will I get for changing my vote? How much are you going to give me? A new parking garage? A major highway? This is disgraceful and disrespectful of this office."

King replied: "I was not promised anything to buy my vote today except to say the (museum) issue for me is equal to the Bancroft issue. I wanted to be sure Bancroft Park will be addressed. They're (the administration) coming up with strategy and an execution plan. I think the two parallel each other enough - it was important enough to say I wanted to see progress on both issues."

The vote passed 5-4 to give the museum its first $200,000. Collins, Murray, Pico and Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler dissented.

The $75 million Olympic Museum has raised $46.3 million and will purchase $26.2 million in bonds at month's end, said B.J. Hybl, treasurer of the museum board and president and chief operating officer of Griffis/Blessing.

"That leaves $2.5 million to raise. So this project is 98 percent funded," Hybl said.

Bancroft Park and its circa-1935 bandshell also would get $500,000 under the deal King announced. Damage to the bandshell was estimated at $34,000, the Westside Pioneer reported.

The park occupies one city block in Old Colorado City. Karen Palus, director of city parks, said her staff found other venues for summer events planned at Bancroft that needed the bandshell. The exceptions are Territorial Days, which is providing its own stage at Bancroft, and the popular farmer's market, which never has used the bandshell.

Palus said the park needs new restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and her staff wanted to meet with community members, the Organization of Westside Neighbors and historic preservationists before plans for the improvements were drafted.

"It's taking too long; this is unacceptable," King said during the meeting. "I'm sorry, we've taken charter schools and remodeled them totally in two months and gotten them ready for school. We want something done with this (park) right away."

After the meeting, King told The Gazette: "If they weren't going to work on the park till May, why pass the Olympic Museum (funding request)? So they (the administration) decided to get a little more aggressive on Bancroft, and I said OK. Then I'll support the Olympic Museum. How could I get a sense of urgency on Bancroft? This seems to be the way to do it. I tried to do a little horse trading, and it looks like I got it done."

In other action:

◘ Councilman Don Knight, finance committee head, asked for reconsideration of an earlier vote that gave $1.15 million to the Convention & Visitors Bureau, $250,000 to the Summit House and $250,000 to the Colorado Classic Pro Cycling Event.

Knight was concerned that the $500,000 for Bancroft Park could complicate the LART committee's plans. The council supported him as he bifurcated the resolution, then voted to give the Colorado Classic its money and delay a vote on the CVB and Summit House funds for two weeks.

◘ The council voted 7-2 (Collins and Pico dissenting) for the 2017 action plan on use of block grant funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Aimee Cox, community development manager, made the request and won praise and thanks from council members, as she is leaving the city after 15 years. She warned that HUD and other dollars are being slashed, as 250 people on her list are homeless and only 65 housing units for them are coming into production. "I am not here to tell you the sky is falling. I would just ask you to pay attention," Cox said.

◘ With unanimity, the council passed a bill capping and formalizing medical marijuana licensing and another outlawing the unlawful transfer of marijuana in the city.

◘ The council approved the Renew North Nevada Avenue Master Plan on a 7-2 vote; Collins and Murray voted no.

◘ Expressed support for Issue 2 on the April 4 ballot, to give the city $6 million in 2017 and again in 2018 from surplus revenue to use on stormwater projects. The vote was 6-3, with Collins, Murray and Pico opposed. Only Collins did not lend support to Issue 3, asking voters to let the city opt out of Senate Bill 152, as about 100 other communities have done, to eliminate constraints on providing high-speed internet, cable TV and telecommunications.

◘ Heard a statement expressing sorrow at the death of homeless advocate Raven Canon, read by Murray as Councilman-to-be David Geislinger stood by his side. "Raven's spirit calls us to follow her lead. The injustices must stop, and we will not rest until they do," Murray said.

Editor's note: William J. Hybl's name has been changed to B.J. Hybl in this article at the request of El Pomar Foundation.

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