Past the due date

Library expansion could wait for community center

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John F. Russell/Staff Margi Missling-Root didn't let the cramped quarters of the Bud Werner Library stop her from doing grant research last week.

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Courtesy of Gregory Effinger

A rendering of an aerial view of the proposed expansion to Bud Werner Memorial Library. Lincoln Avenue is in the foreground, and the existing library is on the right. Local voters approved the $11.4 million expansion in 2005.

— Chris Painter loves to talk about the proposed expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library. But seeing the expansion built may take longer than the library director expected.

Construction of the $11.4 million expansion, which will more than triple the size of the library, is scheduled to begin late next summer. The 16- to 18-month process will result in vastly improved children's and teen libraries, an outdoor reading deck overlooking the Yampa River, a coffee shop, more meeting and study space, and significantly increased floor space that will allow for larger displays and selections of nearly all types of media.

"The people spaces, indoor and outdoor, are a real focus of this building," Painter said, emphasizing plans for bean bag chairs in a teen reading room, the curved outdoor deck, a large public plaza between the library and Lincoln Avenue, and upper-story lounge seating behind large windows looking over the river.

"I think the expansion will give us a facility that is extremely beneficial to the community and will provide a lot of resources," echoed Bob Matteo, president of the library's Board of Directors. "It will provide us with some growing room and meeting space that we gave up years ago."

But the expansion's groundbreaking could be postponed to fall 2007 to allow for completion of the new Steamboat Springs Community Center.

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved the new community center Tuesday. The 8,400 square-foot, nearly $3 million center will be built on a 2.3-acre site adjacent to the Stock Bridge Transit Center west of downtown.

According to an agreement city officials made with library officials in October 2005, the new community center must be built before the existing Steamboat Springs Community Center, which is adjacent to the library, can be torn down to allow for the library expansion. Local voters approved the expansion in November 2005.

Although the agreement states that the new community center must be completed by August 2007, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said Tuesday that the deadline will be "impossible" to meet. DuBord said "at least a three-month extension" will be needed to complete the new community center.

Whether to grant an extension - or whether an extension is possible, given logistics such as construction plans and costs - is up to library officials.

"I plan to set up a meeting with representatives from the city and the Library Board to talk about that, and to see if there's an ability to extend that date," DuBord said Thursday.

DuBord said that if library officials do not agree to postpone the expansion, an interim community center site would have to be found. She declined to comment about possible interim sites.

DuBord said city officials hope to soon have finalized construction drawings for the new community center, which they hope to bid to contractors in mid-January.

"There's a lot of work we're doing in the next couple weeks," DuBord said.

A difficult position

Painter paused Wednesday before stating whether she has been frustrated with the community center's lengthy planning process, which involved months of public debate about the center's design and location.

"Naturally, yes," she said. "It's difficult to move forward if you don't have answers. But I think the (City) Council has been in a very difficult position, due to the amount of input they've received."

Matteo declined to comment about frustration caused by the possible delay.

"I'm not going to go there," he said, preferring to talk about the expansion itself. "Where we are now is the result of a lot of years and a lot of hours of work by people throughout the community. I think we've come up with a terrific plan that's going to hopefully be well-liked."

Painter said she has not yet talked about a postponement with board members.

"We haven't had that discussion at all - not one iota," she said Wednesday. "For me, it's not a political decision. It's more of a logistical decision."

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission likely will review the expansion's final development plan in January.

"We had some concerns initially with the library, in terms of its presentation to Lincoln Avenue," said Tom Leeson, director of city planning services. "They've made some very good changes and tried to address Lincoln in a more positive way. I think it's a good-looking building."

The Minneapolis-based firm Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle is the primary architectural firm for the expansion. Steamboat resident Scott Myller of West Elevation Architects also is working on the project, which features different design styles on different sides of the expansion.

Plans for the north side, facing Lincoln Avenue, show what Leeson called a "traditional" design of brick and stone, with an entrance off the plaza. The south side of the expansion, facing the river, is built in a sweeping curve dominated by large windows and the upper-story reading deck.

The current library is about 9,500 square feet in size, Myller said. The expansion includes 23,400 square feet of new space, for a total library facility of 32,900 square feet.

The majority of the current library will be "opened up" into a large community room as part of the expansion.

Matteo said although the library board usually meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month, the board's next meeting could occur early in January.

"We're very far along in the planning process, and we're also working on final construction drawings," said Matteo, adding that postponing construction would be a "significant" hurdle. "The initial timeline was so that we would start (the expansion) in the beginning of July, but how that will now play out I can't tell you at this point. There are too many variables."

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