Funds OK'd for tennis center

Council votes to spend additional $792K to replace facility

Reasoning that it would cost more to delay, the Steamboat Springs City Council voted 6-1 this week to spend an additional $792,481 and move forward with replacing The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Council members were stun-ned Aug. 2 to learn that the sole bid for the tennis center project on Pine Grove Road came in at 50 percent over budget. Members asked city staff and members of the Tennis Committee to revisit the $3 million bid and report about whether it would make sense to defer portions of the project. Ultimately, the council decided it wasn't good fiscal policy to spend more taxpayer dollars a year or more in the future to accomplish the same project.

"I know the community needs facilities like this," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "But we need to learn from this and not allow this to happen again."

The city had budgeted $2.19 million for the project, which would replace a dysfunctional tennis bubble covering four clay courts with a more permanent structure and six new asphalt courts.

However, when the only bid for the project was received, it was a little more than $3 million, leaving council members to work on their lob shots.

Ultimately, Ivancie was one of six council members who voted to go over budget and agree to a plan that would defer $150,909 in construction costs until 2006 or beyond but fund the large majority of the project as planned. The council is optimistic the money for the more expensive project can be found in building-use taxes (sales taxes on building projects) and excise taxes. Both revenue streams are running ahead of 2004 numbers.

Councilman Ken Brenner cast the lone dissenting vote. He said he was worried about public perception of the project in light of the fact that it was two years ago that the city asked voters to approve a property tax to fund the fire department. At the time, Brenner pointed out, the city was telling taxpayers it was struggling to provide basic services.

"I want to know how I'm going to look my constituents in the eye and say we're struggling to fund the city," Brenner said. "I think we're doing a poor job of prioritizing. I'm really disappointed with where we're at. There is a constituency I represent that would be outraged if I voted in favor (of funding the more costly construction budget). I should have removed my support earlier."

Council members Loui An--tonucci and Kathy Connell agreed that deferring significant portions of the project to future years to lessen the budget hit this year would wind up costing more money in the long run.

"I don't see any efficiencies in delaying," Connell said.

Antonucci said many professionals in the building industry have been blindsided this year by escalating costs for concrete, lumber and steel.

Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson offered research to support the position that delaying parts of the project would cost more in the long run.

At the request of council members at their Aug. 2 meeting, Wilson and members of the Tennis Committee analyzed portions of the tennis center project to estimate how much more it might cost to build 12 to 18 months in the future.

One possibility was deferring the $248,812 bid for construction of additional office space and a spectator viewing area. The estimate was that to delay would cost another $80,000 in escalating construction costs, Wilson told the council.

The Tennis Committee also studied the possibility of resurfacing only the four old clay courts, deferring paving of two new indoor courts into the future. However, Wilson said the lighting, drainage and asphalt for the six courts must be installed as part of a single system. The portion of the work that will be delayed by the city includes sidewalks along Pine Grove Road and along an interior road, and relocation of the front entrance to the pro shop. The deferred cost of the sidewalks is estimated to be about $106,900, or $9,700 more than the current cost. Deferring the entrance work will bring the estimated cost to $44,000, or $4,000 more than the current cost.

The successful bidder on the tennis center was Fox Construction. Wilson said the old bubble came down Aug. 4. Native Excavating has begun work on the interior road, and construction is continuing on a foundation permit only. The city's request for a structural building permit is going through the process, and the tentative completion date is early December.

"We're faced with two choices," Council President Paul Strong said. "Build the tennis center or make tennis a five-month activity. We need to build the best facility we can and show what Steamboat really is."

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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