Our View: Stop the insanity

At Issue: The new community center

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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.

Comments

retiredinss 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree that the Community Center needs to be reconsidered, but even moreso, City Council needs to completely reexamine the processes that are being used to define and cost projects. It is unacceptable that an estimate can be off by roughly 30% when going out for bids to reputable contractors. Inflation is not as great as it was in the late 1970's and 1980's. Though the labor market in SS may be tight, it is possible to estimate labor costs. Just ask local estimators if they miss by 30%. Finally while it may be slightly true that cost will continue to rise, that is a poor reason to go ahead with the community center. According to the news articles, design changes are being made to bring the cost down; however, this results in the community getting a different product than the one they expected. Similar to setting out to buy a Lexus and coming home with a Chevvie! The problem is the process is broken and needs to be fixed first, before going ahead with any significant capital projects. Finally, it may be possible, with planning, to combine several projects, save on infrastructure and bring the cost of all down. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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id04sp 7 years, 8 months ago

Maybe coming home with a Chevy is a great idea.

I once paid cash for a Mercedes. It was rear-ended twice in a three-year period, and one of those times it was pushed into the car ahead for even MORE damage. I had to put high octane gas in it, which increased the cost even more. At the end of the three years, it had depreciated about $15,000, which was exactly how much an American sports sedan would have cost, and also would have depreciated in the same period of time.

Since I got rid of the Mercedes, I've owned an F-150 and a couple of American sports sedans. Nobody has ever run into any of them. My current 24 Valve DOHC American sedan cost about 2/3 what I paid for the Mercedes in 1989 and gets over 30 MPH on regular on the highway. It has a 5-star crash rating. My insurance only went up $15 a month over my old car when I traded for it.

A Mercedes or a BMW or a Lexus may have a few nice features, and certainly has more prestige than an Impala or a Taurus or a Sebring, but the American cars work just fine out on the road and are cheaper to own and operate than the fancy cars. I guess I would take the expensive model if the taxpayers were willing to pay for it, but otherwise, I'll stick to getting a good VALUE for my money and spend the difference on other things.

Steamboat should have a community center that provides a good VALUE and a functional facility, and save the extra money for something else. Or even, God forbid, CUT TAXES (even the sales tax) to keep more business in town.

Contact the council members and send a message that we expect them to spend our money the same way they'd spend their money IF they had any common sense.

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