Snowmass Town Council recap: Continued mall transit, renewable rebate program discussions
At a March 9 work session, Town Council turned their focus back on the proposed town renewable energy rebate for local Holy Cross Energy PuRE program members and Option 5 of the mall transit center. Members also talked briefly with staff about coronavirus. Here’s the recap:
CONSTRUCTION PHASING, FUNDING BREAKDOWN FOR TRANSIT CENTER
Before council votes on whether to move forward with more formal design plans for Option 5 of the proposed mall transit center next week, town staff brought answers to a few questions from the last regular meeting to the March 9 work session.
At the March 2 meeting, council members discussed the findings of the Option 5 feasibility study, which projected it would cost $9.8 million, about $1 million more than the estimated cost of Option 4.
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Option 5 is similar to Option 4, but pulls the connecting road between Upper Brush Creek Road to Lower Carriage Way out from beneath the bus platform, shrinks the bus platform deck about 10 feet, and has a higher level of support and confidence among staff.
Council members expressed concern with the construction of the transit center and how it would impact the Village Mall and pedestrian safety, along with the number of current village projects in review in general.
On March 9, David Peckler, town transportation director, and Clint Kinney, town manager, presented as many specifics as possible on potential construction phasing for the transit center, highlighting that it would be completed in three phases over roughly one year; ensure both Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses and Village Shuttle routes were as minimally impacted as possible and ensure continued access to the mall.
Kinney and Peckler also talked about how the town would pursue funding for the roughly $10 million transit center.
Through at least $6 million from the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, $500,000 from the RFTA and $1 million from the town, Kinney said he felt confident in receiving at least $4 million via state and federal grant funding, making the proposed transit center very feasible.
After Kinney and Peckler’s brief presentation, council members expressed more comfortability with the preliminary construction and financial plan.
But part-time resident Jim May voiced concern with pedestrian safety of Option 5, as more buses would be circulating while people crossed the proposed transit platform, and questioned the need for a new transit center at all.
With improvements like barriers between sidewalks and streets in the mall area and better signage, May said he felt the transit center operates pretty well as is.
“I can see why we need something new and beautiful because we’re the greatest and need to have something that’s beautiful and functional,” May said. “I’m just afraid Option 5 will create a fiasco we don’t want to live with.”
Town Council will vote on whether the project moves forward with more formal design planning Monday.
MORE INFO ON PURE REBATE PROGRAM FOR TOWN BUSINESSES, RESIDENTS
Council also learned more about the proposed renewable energy rebate for local residents and businesses that join Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program.
As presented at the March 2 regular meeting, the town of Snowmass Village is predicted to fall just short of its goal of 20% town carbon emissions reduction by the end of 2020.
To help meet that goal and set a sustainable path moving forward, Kinney and Travis Elliott, assistant town manager, proposed a town renewable energy rebate program for the town’s top three emitters: Aspen Skiing Co., Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the town of Snowmass Village.
The rebate would only apply if the organizations join HCE’s PuRE program, which allows town governments, businesses and residents to become 100% clean-energy users by choosing to pay for a renewable energy source that offsets their non-renewable energy usage, as previously reported.
HCE is supplied by 41% renewable energy, meaning PuRE program participants are responsible for offsetting the remaining 59% with renewable energy like wind, hydro or solar, according to the company website.
The town is already a part of the program, so the rebate initiative was geared toward Skico and the water and sanitation district, who both said they would be interested in participating with the rebate in place.
The rebate would reimburse 50% of the PuRE program premium costs for one year using money from the Renewable Energy Commercial Rebate (REOP) fund, which is made up of fees paid in lieu of meeting the town’s renewable and energy efficiency standards when carrying out a new development project.
But at the March 2 council meeting, council members expressed concern with limiting the rebate to just these organizations, voicing support for opening it up to all locals.
On March 9, Kinney and Elliott went over what a town-wide rebate would look like, noting that locals could anticipate their energy bills increasing by up to 10% when joining PuRE and that the town would commit upfront to reimbursing all who participate.
Council said they’d like to get a more firm commitment from Skico and water and sanitation district officials on if they’d participate in the rebate upon council approval, and emphasized the importance of acting as green leaders.
“I think we need to take a stance that we’re concerned about climate change and greening the grid and we should lead the charge,” Councilman Bill Madsen said. Council will vote formally on a budget amendment for the renewable rebate program at its Monday meeting.
UPDATES ON COVID-19
During both the mall transit center and rebate discussions, Town Council brought up the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, asking town staff how they felt the town was prepared for an outbreak.
Kinney said that with credit to the current council, the town’s doubled its designated reserves over the past four years and more than doubled its undesignated reserves, putting the village in good shape if less visitors come to Snowmass or if a recession hits the U.S. due to the spread of the virus.
“This council’s been exceptionally fiscally responsible and I don’t want to jinx anything but I think we’re as strong as we’ve been in five years,” Kinney said.
From a transportation perspective, Peckler said he hasn’t really noticed a decline in ridership on the Village Shuttle buses yet, but all drivers are following the proper safety precautions, cleaning their buses daily and stocking hand sanitizer for riders.
“The biggest thing the federal transit agency is recommending right now is to clean your buses and wash your hands,” Peckler said. “We’re doing what we can to protect our employees and protect the public.”
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