Q. Why did the City need to build Centennial Hall?
A. The city's need for adequate meeting and workspace has become painfully evident over the last few years. Centennial Hall answers both those needs because it improves conditions in three city buildings.
Anyone who ever attended a council or Planning Commission meeting in the Public Safety Building knows how cramped and unsuitable the room was for public discussion of any size. Centennial Hall answers that need with Citizens Hall, which can seat up to 150 (125 fixed, 25 movable).
Moving the main meeting room out of the Public Safety Building frees up space that is desperately needed by the police and fire departments.
Finally, the Planning and Intergovernmental Services office space frees up much-needed space in City Hall, where 44 employees had been occupying spaces designed for 19.
It's hard to imagine any other single building having such a positive effect on so many people.
Q. How does the public fit into your vision of Centennial Hall?
A. The public is what Centennial Hall is all about! The public in 12 hearings and field trips helped design Centennial Hall to make sure the meeting rooms, common areas, technology and support systems would meet the many and varied needs of the public for meeting and special event space.
Centennial Hall fulfills the mandate of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan to keep government facilities in the Old Town area, and it advances the dream of the city and Orton Family Foundation for a 21st century town where citizens can have immediate access to their local government.
The public has already "discovered" Centennial Hall in a big way. The first meeting ever held in Citizens Hall (by Routt County, Feb. 1) drew 180 people, and local organizations are already booking the meeting rooms as far out as August.
Q. How does the cafe fit into your vision of a public meeting space?
A. I think the cafe in one-half the lower floor of the original power plant is a small but important part of the public space.
Food is an honored tradition at meetings all around Steamboat Springs, so it's only natural that people would appreciate the ability to conduct some business over a cup of coffee or a sandwich.
And City Hall currently provides no space for employees to eat lunch. But the city is not going into the restaurant business.
We already have a lot of fine food service professionals in Steamboat, so we'll continue to use them as we have in the past.
Q. Why did you use a lease-purchase agreement to finance Centennial Hall? If it's a public building, why not go to the voters to ask them to approve a bond?
A. The city charter, as well as state statute, give City Council broad authority to do what it believes is necessary to fulfill the city's mission.
The lease-purchase agreement is an important tool for accomplishing that. It allows the city to do what every business can do, act in a timely fashion to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
Lease-purchase agreements have made it possible for the city and county to make some very important improvements in services.
The Routt County Jail is one example. Other examples include the Howelsen Ice Arena, transit buses, the Haymaker Golf Course clubhouse and equipment, open space acquisitions, fire trucks and other heavy equipment.
Financing Centennial Hall through a lease-purchase agreement has allowed us to produce a functional and beautiful public building in near record time while attracting nearly $1.5 million in grants and donations toward the cost of the project.
Q. Where, in your mind, do you draw the line between building a
utilitarian public building and
creating an ostentatious space for government leaders and staff?
A. Excellent question! The answer is that if there ever was a truly utilitarian building in Steamboat Springs, Centennial Hall is it.
Every space and feature in Centennial Hall was designed to be useful, practical, serviceable in a word, utilitarian.People who have attended meetings in Citizens Hall have remarked how audio-visual technology made presentations clearer and more effective. Rooms were designed with movable walls to accommodate a wide variety of uses.
Ceilings and walls were wired to accommodate technology that works wonders now and some that doesn't even exist yet.
Last year, Governing Magazine carried an article about new city halls, comparing them with the typical municipal buildings of 40 years ago, "drab, nondescript box, which some say looks like a budget motel." The new city halls, says the article, "are meant to reflect the spirit of the cities that are leading the country into the 21st century." I like to think that Steamboat Springs can be a leading city, and I certainly believe that Centennial Hall is a beautiful reflection of our community's spirit.