We have been down this road before; yet, we feel compelled to say it again.
The Steamboat Springs City Council owes it to taxpayers to reconsider building a new community center. There simply has to be a more efficient way.
Last week, the council learned the new center, which less than a year ago was going to cost $1.7 million, will cost no less than $4.087 million. At least council members did not immediately sign off on the higher costs, and we hope when the council takes the matter up again, it will see the wisdom in scrapping the current plans altogether.
The only reason the city is in this position is because a previous council made a promise to have a new center in place before the current center is demolished to make room for the voter-approved expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library. The only way the city can live up to that promise now is by finding an interim facility.
At this point, the council would not be doing anyone any favors by building a bad facility at a bad site a year too late for way too much money.
We saw this fiscal trainwreck coming. In this space in November, after the city ordered a re-design of the building, we wrote: "The architects are going back to the drawing board to return with new plans for the City Council to review in December. Anyone want to guess how much more the re-designed building is going to cost? $500,000? $1 million?"
The answer was almost $1.2 million.
Let's review how dramatically the center's price tag has risen in about eight months:
- On June 6, the council voted 5-2 to build a $1.7 million, 5,250-square-foot community center at the Stock Bridge Multi-Modal Transit Center.
- On June 26, the council changed its mind, settling on a $2.5 million, 7,300-square-foot building.
- On Sept. 19, the council approved spending an additional $477,000 for winterization and various heating systems, bumping the total cost to almost $3 million.
- In November, after Planning Commission panned the center's design, the city called for a re-design.
- Last week, the lowest bid for the re-designed center came in at $4.087 million. The low bidder, Fox Construction, warned the price will continue to rise if construction is further delayed.
We don't need to remind the city that it has a history of grossly underestimating projects and then signing off on them when the costs come back $1 million or more over budget. The cost overruns on the community center will not break the city's bank, but they will erode whatever fiscal credibility the city has left on such projects.
The city is working with a consultant to develop plans for community recreation facilities with an eye toward putting a recreation facility on the November ballot. It is not too late to include the community center functions - a large meeting room, office space and an industrial kitchen - in those plans. In the short term, the city surely can find an interim facility to meet the needs of the current center's most frequent users.
This, we believe, is the most sensible approach, one a majority of the community can and will embrace. Here's hoping four council members can follow that logic.