Library expansion 'on hold'

Rising costs, time crunch jeopardize $11.4 million project

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The expansion of the Bud Werner Memorial Library could be in jeopardy, East Routt Library District officials said.

In November, voters approved an $11.4 million bond issue to pay for the expansion. The project includes a 21,000-square-foot, two-story expansion and a remodel of the 9,000-square-foot building constructed in 1967.

Library district officials are worried they will not have enough money for the project because of rising interest rates and construction costs. The bond question determined a maximum amount the district has available for the project, said Bob Matteo, president of the district's board.

"As interest rates rise, we get closer and closer to that ceiling," he said.

He said the district is about halfway to that buffer, despite having a contingency plan. "The longer things take to occur ... the closer we get to the maximum," he said. "If we surpass the maximum, then we don't have a fiscally viable project without additional funds."

The library district must spend 85 percent of its bond proceeds within 36 months of the date they are issued. The closing date on the bonds is set for June 12; library district officials plan to demolish the community center in July 2007.

The project is on hold partly because of the Steamboat Springs City Council's commitment to users of the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The center will be razed for the library expansion, and the council promised to build a new center before the old one is torn down.

The council decided earlier this month to remodel the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street to make that the new community center. That decision requires negotiations with officials from the Steamboat Springs School District because the district owns the building.

"It might work fine if we can work quickly, and if we can't, then we might have a problem," Matteo said. "Yes, we're concerned because we're getting close to that voter-approved maximum. When that occurs, I don't know; it's total speculation."

The district planned its project budget based on the projected variables for cost escalation two years from voter approval, said Chris Painter, library director. However, industry experts are telling her that costs are increasing rapidly.

"We're cautious about that," Painter said. "We want to stay on track to keep the project actual in line with the project budget."

She said, until the community center decisions are final, plans still seem undecided.

"At this point, we are on hold, pending the School Board's very quick analysis whether they feel they can go forward with city negotiations to do the community center at the school site," Painter said. If the Human Services Center doesn't work out, Painter said, she hopes that the council will revert to the Stock Bridge area option.

District officials are waiting for all the pieces to fall into place, she said.

"I know we'll be very concerned if those don't come together as agreed upon by everyone involved," she said.

It's a tight time frame, said council member Susan Dellin--ger, but she's confident that negotiations will work out.

"We wouldn't have voted if we didn't think we could do it. It's definitely our goal," Dellinger said.

She said the School Board has made a good partner.

"The School Board has definitely been very positive and very receptive. They're trying to work with us," she said. "We both know that we want to keep (the Human Services Center) in the community."

Painter said the completion of the community center site negotiations would be a confidence booster for library district officials. She said that she has respect for officials' work on the matter.

"Although, yes, we have con--cerns about things coming together, we are very aware that City Council officials, city officials and staff are working as hard as they can to put the pieces together," she said.

Dellinger added, "As far as we're concerned, we're going to do whatever it takes to make it work."

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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