Sunday, November 19, 2006
City Council President Ken Brenner has asked Routt County to fund 30 to 40 percent of the cost of the new Steamboat Springs Community Center.
County commissioners have not responded officially to the request. However, the initial reaction was not favorable.
We don't blame commissioners for being reluctant. In fact, we would encourage the county to stay as far away from this fiscal fiasco as possible.
We maintain that the city should scrap plans to build a new community center at the Stock Bridge Multimodal Transit Center west of town. We believe the Stock Bridge site is a bad one, that the building is way too costly for the purpose it will serve and that it would be more efficient to incorporate the community center functions into plans for a new community recreation center.
But the city seems intent on fulfilling its promise to give senior citizens a new community center before the old one is torn down. The existing community center is to be demolished next August to make room for the expansion of the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
The promise was a foolish one. The city already will have to fudge on it - there just isn't any way a new building will be finished by August. And the cost of the new building is a lot more than the city thought when it made the promise.
The city got $1 million out of a deal with the library, when the library acquired the land for its expansion. That $1 million is only a third of the current cost to build the new community center. And we fear that cost is going to rise now that the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission has thoroughly rejected the $2.9 million building plans it reviewed.
The architects are going back to the drawing board and are expected to have new plans next month. We're just guessing, but the re-design likely will add $500,000 to $1 million to the project cost.
It's hard to imagine that it costs that much for a building whose main function is providing meals for seniors. No wonder Brenner is looking for help from the county.
It would be foolish for the county to sign on to paying a percentage of a project whose cost continues to rise with no definitive end in sight.
Besides, did Brenner think getting the county to chip in would make the community center decision more palatable? Getting the county's help is the bureaucratic equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul - it doesn't matter whether the city or the county writes the check, it's still the taxpayers' money.
The bottom line is the community center is a waste of the taxpayers' money whether the county pitches in 30 percent or gives nothing more than the $10,000 it has committed.
Instead of writing letters seeking financial help for the community center, Brenner should have the courage to suggest pulling the plug on this project before it costs the city another dime. That's the kind of leadership we need from our council president.