Pueblo County leaders challenge funding for proposed baseball stadium

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-20 00:30:25-04

Funding for the proposed baseball stadium in Pueblo is raising concerns for some community leaders.

As Commissioner Garrison Ortiz told News 5 on Thursday, there’s a proposal that calls for using voter-approved tax money to help foot the bill. 

Commissioner Ortiz says recent documents propose that money from the county’s 1A program should be used to pay for stadium. It’s the voter-approved measure from 2016 that is specifically meant to pay for improvements on Main Street, local roads, and extending the Riverwalk. At a work session a few weeks ago some red flags popped up for commissioners as far as how 1A funding might be used. 

Commissioner Ortiz said, "The most important thing with this project is having transparency and integrity with these numbers."

The commissioner knows just how important ballot measures like 1A are.

"These really are great improvements for Pueblo County to realize."

Ortiz says getting the measure passed back in 2016 wasn’t easy. Now, recent proposals are threatening to take away what it was originally meant for. At the public work session, Ortiz and other commissioners were presented with new documents regarding 1A funds.

"I did point out pretty directly that there was a major disparity from what the original $3 million amount was allocated for the HARP expansion and what number I was seeing come out of the 1A financing."

The amount on the document shows funding for the HARP expansion increased from $3 million to over $16 million. It’s something Ortiz questioned the county’s consultant about during the meeting. 

"I was told the scope of the project had been enhanced and knowing that the Riverwalk extension is right next to the stadium I wanted to be sure there was a clear line there."

In the meeting, Ortiz said he hoped the additional money was coming from stadium funds. 

‘"Our consultant said on the record "no it is not" and I asked "where is it coming from?" and I was told the 1A debt issuance."’

In another document, which he did not want to show, the commissioner explains he saw something else. 

"The shifting of funds from the original 1A pot of money to help with the construction of the baseball stadium."

He says costs for acquiring property for the stadium were being allocated from 1A. 

However, in a recent statement from Pueblo County, Commissioner Sal Pace reminds the public that a private developer is using TIF money to pay for the $25 million proposed stadium, not 1A money. 

Commissioner Ortiz says these documents presented a few weeks ago are only drafts and that nothing is set in stone yet. News 5 will keep you updated.