Seniors worried about center

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Advocates for seniors said Tuesday they will not support expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library unless there is a clear plan for a new community center.

Representatives of the Routt County Council on Aging met with about 50 seniors at the community center to discuss the future of senior programs in light of a proposed bond issue to expand the library.

The library project would involve demolishing the neighboring Steamboat Springs Community Center, a base for the Council on Aging, its meals and its programs.

The East Routt Library Board has identified city-owned land north of the Stock Bridge Multimodal Transit Center as a possible location for a new community center. Council on Aging officials want a site, and possibly funding, established for the center before voters consider the library issue in November.

"All the talks we've had have pointed to that," Council on Aging board member Barbara Bronner told seniors. "But it's not in black and white yet."

Although some seniors questioned whether agencies had seniors' best interests in mind, Bronner emphasized there has been no negative feedback about a new community center.

"At this point, we've gotten a lot of strong support from the library, city and county commissioners," she said.

Officials with the city of Steamboat Springs want to pinpoint users, needs and potential sites for a new center during a public meeting to be held at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at Centennial Hall. The American Legion, Lion's Club and city Parks, Open Space and Recreation Department are other users the city hopes to bring to the table.

"We need you to come and say, 'This is important to us,'" Council on Aging director Shelley Orrell told seniors.

The library board, following the City Council's favorable review of expansion plans, submitted paperwork for the November ballot with the Routt County Clerk's Office, library director Chris Painter said.

She estimated the library project will cost between $10 million and $15 million. All bond funds would go toward that project.

Library board president Tom Hopp has said the library project would not proceed until the community center is replaced.

Senior Glenn Cox said he wanted to see that pledge written into the ballot language, finalized in early September.

"I'm not voting for no library until we get what we want," he said.

For 25 years, seniors have gathered at the community center for meals, health classes, defensive driving courses and other activities. The center's kitchen also is used to prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program and for Hayden seniors.

However, growing demand for programs has resulted in food-storage problems and space issues in the 4,200-square-foot building. There also are parking and access problems, Orrell said.

The city has estimated that a new community center would cost about $1.5 million, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said.

Funds for a new center would come from sources including state and foundation grants, the East Routt Library District and the city's general fund. The city also may seek Routt County's support in securing grants, DuBord said.

Seniors said they wanted the city to guarantee that benefits such as free rent and regular program schedules for the Council on Aging will transfer to a new center.

"We won't pursue this unless it is a win-win situation," Orrell told them. "The second half of that win is for the Council on Aging."

Senior Katherine Lykken, who helped establish the Council on Aging in a small space on Ninth Street in the 1970s, detected some fear of change in the crowd.

She told them that -- like moving to the community center in 1980 -- moving to a new center will help the Council on Aging grow into the organization she envisioned. "Now we have to move on and let go," she said.

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