News Column

Council clashes over tourism loan again

September 3, 2014

By Peter Roper, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Sept. 03--City Council members are on fragile terms with each other but the panel returned Tuesday to the contentious issue of making a $14.5 million loan to the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority for expanding the Pueblo Convention Center.

Councilman Steve Nawrocki even suggested the city charge interest on the loan and Council President Sandy Daff conceded the idea could be discussed -- but there wasn't much movement between the two sides.

Council turned down the loan twice earlier this year on 5-2 votes, telling PURA to borrow money for the project -- which would cost at least $10 million in additional interest.

Daff and Councilwoman Ami Nawrocki, along with former Councilman Chris Kaufman, led the opposition, saying it would cost the city lost interest revenue if it gave PURA $14.5 million from the city's $40 million half-cent fund for job recruitment.

Daff and Ami Nawrocki insisted city voters needed to approve any loan -- although city ordinances give council broad leeway

to define job recruitment.

Since those votes, Kaufman has resigned and published emails between the three revealed there was a concerted strategy to rebuff any loan request from PURA.

But that didn't mean Daff and Ami Nawrocki weren't sticking to their views.

PURA Executive Director John Batey said a no-interest loan would let PURA move much faster in building the projects approved by state officials when they awarded Pueblo the first Regional Tourism Act grant in 2012. That grant means Pueblo can use a slice of state sales tax for 50 years to build improvements Downtown.

Ami Nawrocki asked Batey if state officials weren't questioning the decision to make the grant if PURA simply could get money from the city half-cent fund.

"No, they were mildly amazed that the city didn't make the loan," he answered.

Steve Nawrocki urged council to attach an interest rate to the loan if that would satisfy their worries that the city would lose money.

Batey agreed that PURA could afford about $1 million in interest on a 10-year loan from the city.

Both Steve Nawrocki and Councilman Chris Nicoll said the project was needed to boost the local economy.

Ami Nawrocki countered that council had been willing to put the question to voters but supporters of the loan didn't want that.

Daff finally said that as a way to bring the divided council together, a loan with interest might be worth more discussion. But she didn't go any further than that.


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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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