A clock and a hard place

Community Center, library debate urgent for all

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Peggy Dunning, nutritionist for the Routt County Council on Aging, serves lunch to lifelong Routt County rancher Dave Sandelin, left, and Steamboat Springs resident Bob Carl on Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. High construction bids could stall completion of a new community center, which Dunning said would leave the senior citizen lunches without a home. "I don't have any idea where we'll go," she said Wednesday.

— The future of the new Steamboat Springs Community Center, way over budget and well behind schedule, suddenly is very unclear.

Steamboat Springs City Council members are giving very different answers about whether the city should allocate up to $1 million from in reserve funds to meet the escalating construction cost of the new center. Meanwhile, users of the current community center and the adjacent Bud Werner Memorial Library fear the city is coming close to reneging on promises made to them.

On Tuesday night, the City Council reacted with shock when the lowest bid for the new center came in at $1 million more than anticipated. Council members tabled any decisions on center funding for one week.

A new community center is necessary because the current center must be torn down to make room for the library's voter-approved, $11.4 million expansion. The council had promised to have a new center built by the time the current center is torn down. Demolition could come as soon as July 1.

Councilman Ken Brenner expressed fears that library officials - who plan to take bids in May - will encounter high construction costs and then decide not to move forward with the expansion.

"That would be a really bad thing to find out two months from now," Brenner said. He called spending an additional $1 million on the new community center "ridiculous."

Fox Construction of Steamboat Springs has bid the community center project at nearly $4.1 million. That amount is more than $1 million more than the community center's total budget. Tom Fox, owner of Fox Construction, told City Council members that if they don't decide on community center funding until after hearing the library bids in May, the community center project would then need to be re-bid, almost certainly at an even higher cost.

The new, 8,400-square-foot community center is to be built on a 2.3-acre site adjacent to the Stock Bridge Transit Center west of downtown Steamboat.

Whether the City Council decides to fully fund the building will affect users of the current center, primarily the local American Legion chapter and Routt County Council on Aging; library users, staff and officials; and Steamboat Springs taxpayers.

City Finance Director Don Taylor has said Steamboat will have more than $3 million in unallocated reserves at the end of 2007, without increasing funds for the community center.

Tuesday night, Councilman Loui Antonucci expressed doubts about the building's rising price tag.

"I don't know that I'm of a mind to approve a $4 million budget," Antonucci said. "We really need to be prudent with taxpayers' money. If we spend another million on (the community center), what are we going to be giving up in the next five years?"

Councilman Towny Anderson has been an outspoken opponent of the Stock Bridge site and community center plans throughout the process.

On the other hand, Council members Paul Strong, Karen Post and Steve Ivancie support moving ahead with the project.

"I think if we delay it another six months, it could cost another half million dollars," Strong said, echoing an argument made by Ivancie.

City Council President Susan Dellinger could not be reached Wednesday.

A "no" vote on the additional community center funding, according to Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord, would require architects to "re-design the project and reduce the square footage," causing a delay of up to four months. That would push completion into the summer of 2008 and necessitate "immediate negotiations with the library district."

Library director Chris Painter said Monday "additional delays on the community center project : would likely impact the library's timeline," but would not elaborate on whether library officials plan to break ground July 1, the earliest allowable date according to the library's agreement with the city.

Library staff members are eagerly awaiting an expansion that would triple the size of the current building.

"We need a new library tomorrow, not in one or two years," said Maureen Smith at the circulation desk in the children's library.

On Monday afternoon, more than 30 local senior citizens shared a free lunch at the current community center, one of four weekly lunches prepared by Council on Aging nutritionist Peggy Dunning.

Thelma Whitmer worked as a postmaster in Clark from 1970 to 1983, while raising five children with her husband in North Routt County. During lunch, Whitmer said she doesn't expect to see a new community center any time soon.

"Political promises leave you hanging a lot," she said. "I'll believe it when I see it."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

morebuns 7 years, 9 months ago

Hmmmm, a million or so extra for a tennis "bubble" that will eventually have to be replaced is OK; however, an extra million in order to replace the community center for our seniors and veterans is "ridiculous" according to one member of our City Council . . . I wonder if he plays tennis!!$@#$$%

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WZ 7 years, 9 months ago

What's all this hype I hear from officials about "controlled growth" and the like??? Then those in charge go ahead and approve an unprecedented number of major development projects, all at once!

Steamboat is a centrally isolated tiny town. It doesn't have the resources to handle all of these projects all at once. It seems to me classic supply and demand. (Speak up Scott Ford.) City Council screwed themselves, the tax payers and visitors at the same time, not just with this one project, but with all of them. This is just one project (on a very small scale in comparison) of many that could soon to be 25% over budget. I can't wait to hear Jim Cooke billowing next!

What a legacy this council is leaving....

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another_local 7 years, 9 months ago

These guys are talking about spending $500 a foot to build what is in essence a large empty house. I doubt you will see the private developments going over budget like that. Those guys watch the money more effectively. If they do go over budget it is thier own problem to deal with. You will not hear the screams if there are any.

The high end of the selling prices for the downtown residential units underway is more like $400 a foot and that includes the land, construction, profit for the builder, profit for the developer, profit for the investor and commision for the real estate agents... and covers the cost of the whole building including the retail spaces they aren't selling.

Figure it out. We are getting screwed on these public works projects. This project can be built for $250 a foot or less. Remember, there is NO LAND COST.

Put the community center in the old section of the library! If the library board will not talk about it throw them out! They serve at the pleasure of the public by appointment from the city and county.

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SilverSpoon 7 years, 9 months ago

Move the seniors up to the sanctuary, complete with sauna, hot tub, stainless appliances, and spectacular views. 6000 sq ft only costs 3 million up there. Get it done in 1 month.

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another_local 7 years, 9 months ago

Silverspoon may be right... just buy a big house that already exists and close before the library project begins (if it does begin)

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elphaba 7 years, 9 months ago

Trying to get this Council to accomplish anything - even a reasonable idea is impossible. If it doesn't serve their own self-serving private agendas - they are incapable of doing anything. Could it be time for recall?

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Gadfly 7 years, 9 months ago

No, Ken doesn't play tennis. If he did, he would have asked for a free season pass by now.

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Watcher 7 years, 9 months ago

I think silverspoon has a great idea. Buy one of the mega houses and remodel the kitchen. It would be WAY cheaper. probably nicer also.

I would also like to reference the golf club which cost 4 million and the council never blinked. What's up with that? That was okay because it would draw more tourists to Steamboat.

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