Board members propose new library at site of old junior high

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— Beginning the first Steamboat Springs School Board study session Monday night after a six-week summer vacation, four board members and the superintendent convened to hear the Bud Werner Memorial Library board and others present their future facility plans.

With representation from the Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle firm of Minneapolis, Minn., the library board presented a single plan to board members of acquiring, or purchasing, the administrative office building to develop a new library.

The library board came to the board members to hear what their thoughts were on putting a library at the site of the old junior high school, now the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street.

"We have garnered great neighborhood support. Our next step is to acquire this site," said Chris Painter, library board director.

The library board presented the idea that the current site of the library doesn't offer a safe avenue of transportation for children.

Barry Petit, representative of the Minneapolis-based firm, tried to affirm to the school board that a library needs to be in the center of town, accessible to everyone.

"We want this to encompass as many people as (we) possibly can," Petit said. "This library needs to belong to the town of Steamboat."

Board members listened with open ears to the thoughts of the library board but voiced concern as to what would happen with the use of the old junior high and when they would like to start acquiring the land.

"What is the who, what, where, when and how of relocating the existing uses of the school site?" asked Dan Birch, president of the school board. "In concept it's an agreeable thing, but I'd be reluctant to sign on the bottom line unless I know what our options are."

Tom Hopp, library board president, was listening in on the meeting through speaker phone and said the board hasn't solved any of these issues but simply wants to know if they should be looking for a new site altogether.

"People are aware that this is a possibility. We are here to resolve those issues," Hopp said.

Currently, the old junior high provides uses for LIFT-UP, the Seventh Street Playhouse and a preschool, as well as housing other community activities and the administrative offices.

Painter said the site was a library in the late 1800s but a public school was built on the site later.

Rick Denney, facilities director for the school district, said the site of the old junior high would not facilitate an elementary, middle or high school at this time in Steamboat.

"We obviously don't know what the future will bring, but (this site) would be too small for an elementary school," Denney said.

Nate Anderson and Nancy Spillane, two neighbors of the old junior high, said their adjacent neighbors feel it would be a valuable asset to the community.

"It's an ideal use for the property. I can't see that it would in any way have a negative impact," Anderson said.

"This is an ideal neighborhood location. It would just enhance this property," Spillane said.

Nancy Kramer, Steamboat Springs Arts Council executive director, said the arts council has a plan of its own that may include the current library site on 13th Street.

The arts council has discussed acquiring the current library site to build a 200- to 250-seat performing arts facility.

She also said the council and Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus have discussed a partnership to build something near the site of the college.

"Those ideas and concepts are moving forward," Kramer said. "There's really becoming a great demand. We're all kind of going down the road together."

Kramer is hopeful the council will have a master plan laid out by October.

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