Our View: Community center compromise

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Some on the Steamboat Springs City Council are right to advocate a slow, deliberate process toward building a new community center, rather than rushing the project to fulfill a promise to senior citizens.

The community center issue is really about three facilities -- a new, expanded Bud Werner Memorial Library, the planned new community center and a proposed recreation center.

Voters this month gave the East Routt County Library District permission to raise property taxes to fund construction of a new library. Doing so requires demolishing the existing community center, which is on the same tract of land at 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue.

In July, the City Council pledged it would not knock down the existing center and displace groups using it until a new one was built.

The council took that unusual step to ease fears among seniors and their advocacy groups that they would be left without a facility when library construction began.

That promise puts the community center on a fast track, because the library district, understandably, wants to get its project under way.

The situation was further complicated recently with the resurrection of a process exploring whether the city should build a recreation center, where it should be and what it should offer.

It's valid to ask whether the city should consider building one facility to serve as a recreation center and community center.

The trouble is, planning for the recreation center is still in the early talking stages, and the city is committed to building a community center quickly so the library district can get its project started.

The fact, however, is that there's bound to be a way for the city to honor its commitment to the seniors and their groups, without rushing projects for which the entire community is on the financial hook.

From past comments, it seems the seniors' needs are fairly simple and straightforward: They want a place that's big enough to house their events and outfitted with a commercial kitchen substantial enough to accommodate programs such as Meals on Wheels.

One option might be to spend a relatively small amount of money renovating a space to serve as a temporary community center while the community decides whether to build a joint facility or two separate facilities and where it, or they, ought to be.

A lot of varied opinions have been offered about the recreation center and the community center. One theme has been pretty constant, however, among supporters of both: Both groups say they want well-planned, well-executed facilities, nothing half-done, nothing tossed together.

Avoiding that is in everybody's best interest. So, if the question comes down to honoring that promise to seniors, at the expense of thinking these expensive projects through, or giving the seniors something less than a "new" center until that thinking gets done, it's clear which the City Council should chose.

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