Our view: Time to chill | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Time to chill

At issue

Putting construction of a new ‘Igloo’ on ice

Our view

City Council made the correct call by tabling plans for new childcare building

While we don’t doubt the good intentions behind city staff’s desire to replace the children’s after-school care facility known as the Igloo, we applaud Steamboat Springs City Council for deciding June 21 to table plans to build a new modular building at a cost of $775,000, at least until its October budget hearings.

At issue

Putting construction of a new ‘Igloo’ on ice

The igloo, actually an older modular building on the east side of the city’s indoor ice arena, originally served as a combined locker room and ice skate sharpening facility. It has hosted a city Department of Parks and Recreation Services after school program since 2002. In 2007, when the facility was beginning to show its age, the city gave it an upgrade with new carpeting, flooring and paint.

At present, the Igloo is licensed to host just 15 children, age 2 1/2 to 6, at a time. The new modular would have accommodated more youngsters. However, we’ve observed that, since 2007, the options for after-school care here have diversified, and there may be other ways to meet the need. It’s no surprise City Council balked at spending more than three-quarters of a million dollars to meet the after-school needs of 15 children (in a given day).

To be fair, the costs of the new Igloo were inflated by its proposed site — in a floodplain — which required more robust construction and complicated necessary measures to make the building accessible. In addition, the new Igloo would have been built on the west side of the ice rink parking lot, where it needed an expensive sidewalk to make it child friendly.

Councilman Scott Ford appropriately pointed out to his fellow council members that backing away from funding the new Igloo offered a chance to demonstrate fiscal restraint.

“If we’re going to show fiscal sustainability, we have to show restraint, and as policymakers, we are going to have to say ‘no’ to good things,” Ford said. “It is not a knock against the programs (at the Igloo). I’m just not sure it is a fundamental core service that only the city can do.”

We concur.

Approving the $775,000 modular building without further vetting would have undermined the credibility of council in the community at a time when it must confront questions about how it will build a new law enforcement campus and how this city will grow.

We attach great importance to issues pertaining to childcare in a community in which some parents work more than one job to keep their family afloat. But in this case, it’s about achieving more value for the public’s dollar.

In the interim between early July and October, we urge city staff to explore options for providing the services currently offered at the Igloo in cooperation with private or nonprofit organizations that already have physical locations. The city might be pleasantly surprised to find that an existing operator might be not only capable, but also eager to provide the services now offered by the Igloo.

Given the city’s revenue structure, we believe it should never attempt to do what the private/nonprofit sector is already prepared to do. Before it recommends to City Council that it build the Igloo in a new, less-costly location, city staff should confirm whether there is a way to meet that need without building a new, and overly costly facility.

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