Towny Anderson: Take a step back

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The recent objections to the amount of money we are about to spend on a new community center at the Stock Bridge Transit Center may or may not become an opportunity to revisit this proposed expenditure. In the interest of encouraging an honest public dialogue, I offer the following comments about what I believe was an expedient, ill-conceived decision.

We have been told that a building was always planned for the Stock Bridge site. What we have not been told is that a building of a certain size was identified on a plan, allegedly to meet the threshold for CDOT to pay for the traffic light. This is a game that is often played by municipalities to qualify for state funding.

The previous City Council made a promise to the Council on Aging and the American Legion that they would have a new facility before the old one was torn down. Imagine if the agreement with the library required the library to include a community center in its plans in exchange for receiving the land under our existing community center. Do you think the library architect would have found a way to make it work?

With the city under the gun, the transit center site was selected first, then the idea was sold to the community. The result of this odd public process was to utterly confuse the nascent planning for a community recreation center. Thus, both the community center and the recreation center have a community room and kitchen in their respective plans.

Curiously, the library spent 10 years researching and planning its new facility. The city, on the other hand, reacted to the library's plans, deciding in a matter of months to move the community center to the transit center site. It is this reactive planning that gave us an initial budget of $1.5 million, now increased by 100 percent.

The severe chastising that the council endured from the county commissioners was disingenuous at best. Proudly displayed on one wall of the Commissioners' Hearing Room is a color photograph of the ribbon cutting for : the new transit center at the Stock Bridge site. Yes, the grants from the state were for a transit center. In the interest of expediency, city and county officials apparently persuaded state officials that the redirection of the grant money was OK. Everyone shamelessly ignored the nearly 10-year history of collaborative planning that resulted in the transit center.

Can anything be done to change the direction of this runaway freight train? Yes, if we are willing to use the tools of collaboration rather than intimidation. First, amend the agreement with the library. We will not make the deadline for completion anyway, so better to acknowledge this reality now than with two months to go next summer.

Second, find a temporary home for the Council on Aging and the American Legion. Several organizations and individuals have offered to help.

Third, look at options for collaboration: the library and the proposed recreation center. Can the city help the library meet its goals with a substantial contribution to construction costs in return for this community facility? There are successful precedents for co-locating public libraries and community centers.

Revisit the Howelsen Hill master plan, which included a recreation center. The master plan included community rooms, a teen center, a gymnasium and other amenities currently under discussion. Has it already been rejected as an option? If so, why? Will a combined community and recreation center save the city $1 million or more?

If, in fact, the Howelsen Hill master plan accommodated a recreation and community center, why are we not abiding by this plan? In my short tenure in this community, I have watched more than one plan be dismissed in the process of decision-making - an act that, in effect, dismisses the citizenry that responded to elected officials' requests to engage in community planning. Releasing ourselves from an unachievable deadline and enabling us to reconsider the community center would be a good first step toward re-establishing accountability of government. We might save some of our tax dollars, and we might do better for all our seniors, including the Council on Aging.

The views expressed above are the author's alone and do not represent the views of the Steamboat Springs City Council

Comments

steamvent 7 years, 4 months ago

Yes Towny, blame the old city council, blame the county commissioners, blame the planners ... hey, maybe now you can see that this public service isn't so easy. You continually whine through the newspaper ... what, you have no influence on the council through public process? How does it feel to be part of the problem? Not so good, eh?

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snowysteamboat 7 years, 4 months ago

Good Call on the Townie using the newspaper.

It sure is easier to write a letter than to govern.

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another_local 7 years, 4 months ago

Nice to criticize S-vent and Snowy. Does it matter to you that he is right?

Building public dialog in a forum wider than the whiners that attend all the council meetings is crucial to making better decisions. The same naysayers attend all the meetings. We have heard plenty from them. It is about time there was a broader public dialog and council members willing to hang their opinions out for discussion instead of tip-toeing around until they know which way the wind blows.

Congrats to Towny for calling a spade a spade. The existing plans are ill-conceived, poorly thought through and too expensive. Our public entities are spending money like kids that found $100 on the sidewalk without careful consideration of ways to improve projects or save costs.

We are headed toward wasting a lot of money building a community center in a place that NOBODY would choose as first choice... why? Because the land is free? We are looking at construction costs of 3-4 million on 7000-8000 square feet with no land cost. Has anyone done the math on that? That is outrageous! It comes to $400-$500 per square foot. Do we get gold plated plumbing fixtures and an owners lounge for that? Maybe some custom polo shirts to wear at the club and a private country and western concert at the grand opening?

We need a broader based planning process for public works projects that looks at a wider section of public needs before we go spending millions on projects with overlapping uses. We need a truely competitive bidding process for the construction contracts and somebody needs to inject some reality into the process. We all worked hard for the money that will be spent; let's not waste it!

Why has there been no budget for operating expenses for these new projects? Should we really be tying ourselves into ongoing commitments without even making the effort to estimate what that commitment entails?

Good letter Towny.

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skate456 7 years, 4 months ago

Quite frankly I am a bit dismayed by this public display of partial information. What Towny does not do is inform his readers that the "Howelsen Hill master plan" is a 1973 document which exists only in the City Planning department's archive. No public copy is available on the Web or at any library. Since that time, we have gone through 2 versions of a Steamboat Springs Area plan.

What we are forgetting is that the library, Routt Council on Aging, and the City of Steamboat Springs spent years discussing every possible plan: combining the Community Center with the library, moving the library off of the present site, sites for relocation of the community center, etc., and the best possible plan was the one presented to the voters.

The voters decided that the plan was a good one, and now our newly elected official is crying wolf. Sorry Towny, but grasping at apron strings smacks a bit like your efforts on the Court House. How many more tax dollars are you going to waste by such shenanigans.

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snowysteamboat 7 years, 4 months ago

I agree with local that Towny is tight about the boondoggle known as the Community Center. I was just pointing out that it doesn't do any good if your not going to back it up with action at the Council.

And Skate, you are entirely right with regards to the Howelsen Hill Plan. However, the voters were never presented with relocation options for the Community Center. The location and construction were the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to deal with. We'll just let the City deal with it. But the City has a horrendous track record on capital projects of this scope that is once again being illustrated here.

The whole concept of what a community center is must be revisisted.

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another_local 7 years, 4 months ago

My impression is that the council reacts to whoever shows up at the meeting. Will you be there to tell them to stop wasting money?

I think the "action" needed to "back it up" is for some additional people to attend and lend thier voices to the issue.

Towny has laid his position out for all to see which is more than I have seen from the others. Let's have the debate.

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skate456 7 years, 4 months ago

Though I agree that those who scream loudest at City Council often get the ear of our esteemed officials - I must also say that I sat at every City Council meeting with respect to the vote of the location of the new community center, and guess what - they voted to put it at Stockbridge.

I am frustrated with the fact we are still discussing this issue. The longer we debate the question, the more expensive the construction project becomes. It's time to move on and stop wasting energy on an issue that has been decided upon.

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another_local 7 years, 4 months ago

Four out of seven voted for it... Not one of them (even the ones that voted for it) think it is a good idea. It was pushed through under the pressure of a promise that was irresponsible to make. Now that proimise is broken.

When council voted for it, the idea was that it would cost 1.5 million. Now it is up to 3.0+ and climbing. At this price the issue is not "decided upon" which is why the discussion continues.

The problem is not that costs have doubled, it is that there is no control over what is being planned.

At 3.0+ million, I hope it gets voted on again and killed. This is another Tennis bubble fiasco. They need to go back to the drawing board. With no land cost they should be able to build a very nice building for these uses for the original 1.5 million.

It also does not need to be at the stockbridge site. There are other city owned lands that would be better suited starting with Lincoln Park and the base area of Howelson (past the ball fields and the skate park to right as you enter the area)

How about co-operating with the school district on the remodel of the 7th street facility in return for being able to use it after the new school construction is complete?

As frustrating as this process is, I would rather it continued if the result of cutting it off is wasting 2 million dollars.

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