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EDITOR'S DESK: City ho-hum about fixing burned Bancroft bandshell

By Kenyon Jordan

      

Of all our recent news articles, probably the one that's drawn the most attention is the city's expectation that the fire-damaged Bancroft Park bandshell will not be fixed by summer. (See article at this link.)
       People are justifiably confused and frustrated by this news. Count me among them.
       Actually, I have to be careful in writing a column on the subject. Why? Because the ho-hum bureaucratic response from City Parks officials - not to mention Police and Fire - is so much in line with what I've previously penned about the city's apparent disregard for what Bancroft means to the Westside community that I can hardly keep from typing the following:
       The Westside/Old Colorado City is seen as the red-headed stepchild by Colorado Springs bigwigs. They. Don't. Care.
       Let's sift through the Bancroft-repair excuses from City Parks, shall we? (These are the ones reported in our above-noted news article, slightly vernacularized for the sake of argument.)
       · Golly darn, the wallboards were made with asbestos - that's a sure six-week delay, right there.
       · The state's historical office needs to comment - tack on another six weeks so that a one-page letter can be drafted that says yeah, fix it.
       · The insurance adjustors are going to need some time - most of it probably figuring out their fee. Let's say six more weeks.
       · A design has to be done - for what? To replace the boards that burned? Because after all, no evidence of serious structural damage was revealed in the Fire Department investigation of the Jan. 27 incident. In any case, the very idea of a design need is sure to mean a plethora of staff meetings and inter-office memos. That should add up to a couple of months… maybe half a year if the drawing work is contracted out… or try a year-plus if City Parks takes on the enormous challenge (sarcasm font) of incorporating the longstanding merchant proposal to add modern restrooms to the back of the building.
       · Our staff is overworked already - OK, everybody knows City Parks is way under-budgeted. There wasn't even a full-time ranger for the Garden of the
Assembled in front of the Bancroft Park bandshell, a joint military color guard provided a formal solemnity to the Moment of Remembrance ceremony for America's war dead during the 2012 Territory Days. Based on City Parks' suggestion to event organizer Jim Wear that he do without the bandshell this year because of its Jan. 27 fire, he has said that a temporary stage would probably have to set up in in the space where the color guard and much of the crowd is standing.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Gods until three years ago. So now Bancroft Park can become the new poster child. How about slow-walking the repairs four extra months, just to prove a point?
       · We don't have the funding - I thought that's why the city had insurance! Oh well, add another four months. Or maybe more, if Parks has to wait for the 2018 budget cycle.
       How much does all that total? I'm sorry, I was never good at math.
       You may ask, what makes me so cynical about this Bancroft Park bandshell situation? I submit to you the following 10 points:
       1. Bancroft Park's daily rental rate has jumped from $75 to $525 in the last seven years.
       2. That rate is the same as for the downtown's Memorial Park, which is - let me do the math, even though it hurts - 163 times bigger than 1.2-acre Bancroft Park.
       3. Territory Days in Old Colorado City pumps thousands of dollars in sales tax earnings into the city treasury. Yet in Westside Pioneer contacts with four City Parks officials about the summer bandshell loss, not one announced concern about potential harm to that Memorial Day-weekend festival. Nor did they raise the possibility of prioritizing at least a temporary repair to make the bandshell usable for the event's live entertainment.
       4. The eight summer Paint the Town Blue concerts are smaller-scale, with far less sales-tax income from vendors; however, each show attracts hundreds of people to Old Colorado City, many of whom surely eat in its restaurants, drink in its bars, shop in its stores. Without a bandshell for its bands, the Pikes Peak Blues Community could be excused for scheduling “Paint” elsewhere this year. [Note: I have tried to reach someone from the PPBC, so far to no avail.] But this dismal prospect for OCC is also an apparent non-issue for Parks officials.
       5. We already lost the Car Show. After 25 years in OCC (including Bancroft for its bands), the car clubs that sponsored this fundraiser for trained assistance dogs gave it up last August when they found that the amount it raised for the charity was exceeded by the city's bill for police protection. The City Parks response? Well, officially it was that staffers were just following city ordinances. The unofficial response was more revealing: When the clubs had asked for cost relief, the city suggestion was to move the event downtown.
       6. Coronado High School nearly relocated this year's 36th annual Homecoming Parade event (which uses Colorado Avenue and the park/bandshell), for the same kinds of cost reasons as the Car Show. To pay for it, Principal Darin Smith said the school had to use the money it had raised from all its fundraising in the past year. Response from the city? Basically the same bureaucratese as for the Car Show.
       7. Regarding the Fire Department… True story. Twelve days after the fire, I e-mailed over there and asked for a damage estimate. A department spokesperson matter-of-factly explained that none was available yet because City Parks "hadn't called back with the usable square footage." So I took it upon myself to contact the Parks person, obtain that number and provide it to the Fire Department. That's how we now know that the loss to the yes, 1,128-square-foot bandshell was $34,000. (Note: In all fairness and appreciation, firefighters did save the structure - total value $106,000 - from complete destruction on a freezing-cold night.)
       8. Regarding the Police Department… Even though it's likely that the 3 a.m. blaze was set by some transient trying to keep warm - which would seem to shorten the list of suspects (in that the department's HOT Team knows who nearly all the illegal campers are) - the PD has not arrested anybody, nor is there any indication that the case is a priority. Now, for all I know, officers have some leads, but the reality is that the fire happened Jan. 27 and the trail is getting colder by the day.
       9. A similar criticism could be levied about the burglaries over the past year at the neighboring Old Colorado City History Center and (I just learned about this) OCC Library. Both had their donation boxes stolen. Twice each! But no suspects. No arrests. No convictions.
       10. Finally, how about the impact on Old Colorado City's image? Here we have, in plain view of Colorado Avenue, Bancroft Park's historic bandshell, indefinitely patched with a city crew's hastily thrown-up plywood. That just adds so much to community pride (back to the sarcasm font).
       Have I left out anything? Feel free to let me know at editor@westsidepioneer.com, and I'll be sure to publish it as a letter (following our stated criteria) and/or pass it on to the city.

(Posted 2/19/17; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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