City looks at hall use

Council to set night-use policy for Centennial Hall

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— A request from the Peace and Justice Center to hold a Friday night video series at Centennial Hall prompted the Steamboat Springs City Council to discuss whether community groups should be allowed to use the facility after 5 p.m.

Since the $3.7 million building opened in 2001, the city's policy has limited community use of Centennial Hall to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Exceptions are made for city meetings held by groups such as the City Council, the Planning Commission and the historic preservation advisory committee. The Arts Council Film Series also is held during evening hours but is sponsored by the city.

The council decided not to let the Peace and Justice Center hold its film series until the council develops a more definitive policy on allowing night use of the facility.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell said the council should look at the recommendations the Centennial Hall committee had made on how the building should be used by the community. She also said there were other places in the community the group could go to host its video series while the council hammers out its policy.

"I would just urge us not to jump on anything until we have a policy," she told the council.

Some council members noted that taxpayers largely funded construction of the facility and that their ability to use it should be expanded. Councilman Ken Brenner noted that the Routt County Commissioners Hearing Room is opened from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"It's a public facility paid for by public dollars," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "Whatever we can do to expand the use of this facility and the discussion of our citizens, I am all for it."

Others worried about the added costs that would come with having Centennial Hall opened for extended hours.

"I think a huge part of the conversation is how much cost is passed on to user groups that use it after 5 o'clock," Loui Antonucci said.

Concern also was expressed that if the city opened its doors to community groups, it legally could be required to allow groups it might not condone to use the facility.

City Clerk Julie Jordan said the city could incur added expense by opening the facility on weeknights and weekends. She said it would mean added costs for use of lights and restroom facilities, as well as cleaning the building after use and having a city employee operate technical equipment. Jordan also noted that because art exhibits often are housed in Centennial Hall, security was a concern.

Use of the facility is prioritized, with top priority given to the City Council, Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, Municipal Court, state government organizations and miscellaneous city department meetings. Other groups, such as the Routt County Board of Commissioners, Routt County Planning Commission, Steamboat Springs School District, Strings in the Mountains, Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley and Board of Realtors also use the facility.

Linda Lewis of the Peace and Justice Center asked the city to expand its hours to include times when the majority of people do not work. She also noted that her organization interests the 18- to 35-year-old age group, a demographic the city should be reaching out to.

"Our goal is to educate and inspire. If some of the folks start coming and enjoying the stuff here, maybe they will come to city council meetings, be more likely to get on a commission and do things for the city. I think this could actually be a strength to the city," she said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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