Sandstone will adorn new city hall

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— Steamboat Springs City Council agreed this week to spend $60,000 to $70,000 to upgrade exterior building materials to sandstone on a portion of Centennial Hall.

The change wasn't made as routinely as it would appear at first glance. It wasn't until Planning Commission objected to another material recommended by city staff, and scheduled a public hearing, that the staff and the project architect proposed sandstone. Ultimately, City Council and Planning Commission embraced the sandstone as an option that would accurately reflect the native rock quarried on Emerald Mountain and used in many historic downtown buildings.

"A week ago, we were in somewhat of a crisis, which may now be moot," City Manager Paul Hughes told Council. "We were faced with what could have been a long and contentious issue."

Planning Commission Vice Chair Kathi Meyer said even if the commission and City Council had to absorb a "speed bump" to get through the issue, it resulted in a better looking building.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the additional expense will come from a contingency fund built into the Centennial Hall budget.

The changes came about when the city and general contractor Tom Fox learned that one of the original building materials approved with Centennial Hall's building permit would not be a practical option. The original plans called for concrete panels, fabricated on site and tinted a reddish brown earthtone, to be placed on some of the exterior walls of the building facing 10th Street.

The city had assumed those concrete panels could be fabricated in Steamboat, and only recently learned that was not the case. The only way to have accomplished that part of the original plan would have been to have the panels created elsewhere, at great expense, DuBord said.

Furthermore, Fox questioned the durability of the concrete panels.

The Centennial Hall committee recommended seeking an alternative that would appear similar to the split-face block on the new high school addition.

City staff and the committee recommended a material called Trendstone that has an aggregate appearance similar to polished granite.

The change was brought to Planning Commission, which opposed it.

Meyer pointed out city staff had originally devoted considerable energy to convincing Planning Commission that the concrete panels were the right material for a 1,400-foot section of Centennial's exterior. When they viewed a large sample of the Trendstone at a work session on May 30, Meyer said the commissioners were unanimous in their dislike for the textured block material, and felt it was a step backwards.

Meyer said it was not her impression that the May 30 work session had been confrontational, but the Planning Commission saw little choice but to call the matter up for a public hearing unless City Council presented a material option that was to its liking. Meyer explained that because its review of the changes were made in a work session, and not a public hearing, it could not vote on them.

City Councilwoman Kathy Connell told her peers Tuesday night that she felt it was a positive development that the material change for Centennial had been scrutinized closely.

"We've tried to up the ante and challenge our (development) petitioners," Connell said. "I think it's really appropriate that the city had to live up to this challenge."

But Council President Kevin Bennett and Councilwoman Arianthtettner were quick to point out they believe, when it comes to spending tax dollars, planning considerations must be balanced with wise spending.

Ironically, DuBord said the expense of installing the sandstone will cost about what it would have to create the original concrete panels and have them shipped to Steamboat.

In the end, Bennett said he was pleased with the choice of sandstone and noted that it is a historical building material that can be seen on historically prominent buildings all over town.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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