Does Steamboat Springs need a community center, a recreation center, both or a facility that includes each under one roof?
Don't look to a steering committee, the City Council or residents for a concrete answer -- at least not yet.
The City Council discussed the issue during its meeting last week, and with little consensus among its members, it plans to hold another discussion during its Tuesday retreat.
The talks come at a critical time for Steamboat. The city already has a community center, but it will be torn down to make room for the Bud Werner Memorial Library expansion. A former City Council made a pledge to build a new center before the old one is razed.
Several groups and a number of residents are behind a push for a new recreation center -- a place to play and work out. And some think the two centers should be combined into one multigenerational facility.
Last week's council discussion began with a presentation from three community center steering committee members. The committee's original report to the council, given this fall, stated that the council should build a community center right away and look into the possibility of a separate recreation center.
In November, after the push for a recreation center went public, the council asked the committee to reconvene and discuss the best solution for Steamboat.
Committee member John Weinman said the center issue has became a much broader community discussion. When the committee met again in November, he said, the only thing they agreed about was that they disagreed. One group wanted to see two buildings, and the other wanted to see both uses combined under one roof.
Pat McClelland was on the two-building side, he said, because he believes in the bottom line. The council made a promise, he said, and its members should keep it. He also isn't sure a recreation center is needed here.
"Steamboat has a lot of recreational facilities in place," he said. "A recreation center may be a good addition to that, but that will take a lot of planning. I'm just afraid that we could endanger the timeline that the library has to work with."
Funding for the library ex--pansion came from a bond issue voters passed in November. Eighty-five percent of the bond proceeds must be spent within 36 months of the date of issuance to avoid financial penalties, library district board officials say.
That time constraint means the city should move forward with construction of a community center, City Council member Paul Strong said.
"We need to move forward with the construction of a facility for current users," he said, adding that a construction start date of summer 2006 would be ideal.
Council members Steve Ivancie and Kevin Kaminski agreed. Kaminski suggested the city build a community center on a site where there will be room for expansion. That expansion eventually could accommodate a recreation center.
Council member Towny Anderson said he wanted to accommodate current users while keeping future users in mind. He participated in a Colorado recreation center tour this month, he said, and saw a trend of multigenerational facilities.
"We don't want to build something that will be obsolete in 10 years," he said.
He said he didn't think the Stock Bridge Transit Center site, which the steering committee identified as a possible location for the community center, has enough room for future expansion.
"Not a whole lot can happen around it," he said.
Anderson proposed instead that the city take the $1.5 million budgeted for the community center and give it to the old high school -- if agreed to by school district officials. Then, Anderson said, seniors and others could use the building, either permanently or until a community or recreation center is built.
"That's the kind of thinking that may help us," he said.
Council President Ken Bren-ner also went on the tour of regional recreation centers. At first, he said, no center looked like a place he could envision for Steamboat. But then the group went to Aspen, where the community center sits adjacent to the schools.
Brenner said he liked the "campus theme," and he thinks Memorial Park would be a good site for a center because it is across from the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center.
"It's a site I do think we have to look at," he said.
During public comment at Tuesday's council meeting, a representative of the Routt County Council on Aging urged council members to stick to their community center commitment.
"Our programming depends on ongoing programming," the woman said. "The time constraints are very important."
Jim Stanko of the American Legion said community centers and recreation centers are different. Community centers are meeting places not only for seniors and the legion, but also for wedding receptions and parties.
"A community center," he said, "is something that this community needs." He said $1.5 million for a community center would be money well spent.
The council needs to discuss the center debate further, councilman Loui Antonucci said.
"If a steering committee can't really agree, then I don't think we should move forward."
-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com