Steamboat Springs City Council members had a hard time swallowing an almost 50 percent increase in the budget to replace the tennis bubble.
At Tuesday night's council meeting, city staff said the budget to remodel The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs had jumped from $2.15 million to a little more than $3 million. Council members said they wanted to continue with the project but that more information is needed before they can decide what should be cut from the list of improvements.
"It is what it's like to be a parent. Sometimes, you say you can't have it. We have to focus on what the priority is here," Councilman Steve Ivancie said.
City staff said they had underestimated the cost of the Tennis Center's site work, foundation and mechanical and electrical systems. They also pointed to a competitive construction season that left the city with only one bidder and high costs. The city also prepared the budget without the detailed engineering and architectural work in place, City Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson said.
Council members said they were stunned by the increase in the budget.
"I feel like myself, the City Council, the community of Steamboat Springs, has been blindsided by this. I feel like someone has brought in integral calculus homework, thrown it on my lap and said, 'Do this,'" Councilman Ken Brenner said.
In November, the council agreed to replace the tennis bubble, which is kept up by air, with a frame structure that has a fabric outer layer. The improvements also included adding two new courts, removing the clay courts and building more locker rooms, office space and a viewing area.
City staff recommended cutting almost $1 million worth of improvements to the Tennis Center to stay within the budget or covering the added costs with higher-than-expected revenues from the building-use tax and excise tax.
"The same thing that led us to our problem has led us to a higher excise and building-use tax," Wilson said about this year's busy construction season.
The majority of council members said they might not have approved the Tennis Center project in November if they thought it would cost almost an extra $1 million.
"This is not good. Anytime you come in 50 percent over budget on a project we already thought pretty extravagant, this is not a way to gain public confidence," Brenner said.
Councilman Loui An--t--onucci, who worked with city staff and the tennis committee on the budget, questioned what good a delay would do the city. He said putting off the scheduled work only would cost the city more in the future.
"Even though it is easy to say lets not do it this year, if we can't find the money this year, when are we going to find the money?" Antonucci asked.
Wilson said the city would like to start construction of the Tennis Center now, with the hope of having it completed by December. Council members said work could begin but that it should not include anything that would prohibit the city from reducing the scope of improvements.
Council members said they would look at eliminating or delaying the construction of two clay courts, the replacement of existing clay courts, relocation of the front entrance of the pro shop, the addition of office space and a viewing area and the building of sidewalks and a fire access road.
"This (project) should probably happen. My question is, should this happen now?" Council President Paul Strong said.
Council members said they wanted to know what the added costs would be if they delayed those projects for a year. Wilson said he would come back in two weeks with more information.