Double billing

Tardy video maker says city owes him twice as much as agreed-upon price

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— The city recently received a $20,000 video and it has no idea what to do with it. What's more, the man who made the one-hour documentary about the history of Steamboat Springs thinks it's worth at least $40,000 and has sent the city a bill for that amount.

The video is one of the few things that didn't quite come together during the city's centennial year in 2000, said Wendy DuBord, deputy city manager. The videographer was late in producing it and the final product is both too long and not quite cohesive enough for the city to use, she said.

The history of the making of the video has almost as many twists and turns as the history of Steamboat Springs.

The video was part of the city's efforts in 2000 to celebrate its 100th birthday. The city signed a contract in 1999 with local artist Smokey Vandegrift to produce a 30-minute documentary about the history of Steamboat Springs and the events of the centennial year.

It was supposed to be completed in time for the city's July 4th celebration in 2000, but the final version wasn't placed in the city's hands until November 2001. Vandegrift said a five-minute pilot was completed by July 2000, though he admitted the rest of the footage came in late.

At the grand opening of Centennial Hall, the pilot, which was about Steamboat from 1900 to 1910, was played on a repeating tape for one hour. That event was supposed to feature the entire video, DuBord said.

Vandegrift, who has produced two other full-length documentaries about Steamboat, said he was disappointed in the city for its unwillingness to work with him as he poured his heart into the project and a lack of communication.

He said he spent four and a half months just watching 600 hours of television and movie clips to prepare to make the video. He eventually had enough material to do an eight- to 10-hour miniseries about the town, Vandegrift said. Even after he presented the documentary to the city in November, he continued to fine-tune it as a "labor of love."

"I found it was a far bigger project than I had ever anticipated," he said.

"Trying to do 100 years about a town as crazy and colorful as Steamboat Springs turned out to be a daunting job."

In the end, making the video cost a lot more than the city was willing or obligated to pay, he said. And though he attempted to get private funding to help pay for it, Vandegrift was unable to do so.

Vandegrift is not about to go to court over the dispute, but he did send the city an invoice for $20,000, on top of the almost $20,000 he was already paid.

The city has made it very clear it will not pay another $20,000 and thinks the $20,000 it already paid is more than generous given the circumstances.

"Quite frankly, the city has been very generous in paying the amount in the contract when the deadline for delivery was not met," DuBord said.

The video begins before white settlers entered the Yampa Valley, when the Utes inhabited the area. It continues throughout the history of Steamboat Springs, taking things 10 years at a time. A number of notable Steamboat locals are featured in interviews, including Skeeter Werner, Dorothy Wither and John Steele Steamboat's first Olympian among others. It documents the town's growing pains as it dealt with the conflicts between tourism and the Old West, while showing how Steamboat, in fact, was almost always attempting to attract visitors in some way.

The video mixes still photographs with video footage that reaches as far back as 1928.

Vandegrift said he went to Denver to do research at the public library and traveled to the Colorado Historical Society to check out the archives. He is now resigning himself to the fact that the video may not be a financial success but should prove to be important in chronicling Steamboat's history.

DuBord agrees that the video has a good deal of historical value. That's why she thinks the city's next move might be to offer the video to the Tread of Pioneers Museum or use it as an educational tool for young people.

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