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City boards up Bancroft Park bandshell as OCC leaders seek answers

       Colorado Springs Parks has taken recent steps toward its pledge to ultimately restore the Bancroft Park bandshell that was damaged by fire Jan. 27.
       However, Parks' decision-making process has left out Old Colorado City business leaders, who were already keenly disappointed by the fire itself - which the city fire investigator said was “purposely set” with damage estimated at $34,000 - and Parks' prior revelation that the bandshell most likely would not be usable for events this summer.
       A new twist came Feb. 24, when - again without notifying Old Colorado City - a Parks crew framed a full plywood wall at the front of the stage, replacing
In response to the fire about a month earlier, a City Parks crew started work early Feb. 24 to board up the bandshell stage in Bancroft Park. The fire started in the back left (northwest) corner of the stage, damaging the ceiling and wall behind it (note the temporary plywood boards there) and charring the rafters. A photo from about two hours later, with plywood over the frame, appears below. According to City Parks, the wall is for safety reasons, and will be up for at least four weeks. After the Jan. 27 fire, City Parks told event promoters to plan for no stage this summer.
Westside Pioneer photo
temporary plywood that was nailed at the back of the stage right after the fire. It will remain like this, “for the safety of all involved,” for four to six weeks while the city waits for reports from a structural engineer and insurance adjustor, according to City Parks Operation and Maintenance Manager Kurt Schroeder.
       Among those not notified about Parks' actions was Julie Fabrizio, president of both the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group and its charitable nonprofit, the Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF), which is in its fifth year of raising money for Bancroft Park improvements. Three days earlier, she had e-mailed City Parks Director Karen Palus asking for bandshell information, but toward the end of Feb. 24 (a Friday), Fabrizio said Palus had still not responded.
       “I am aware that insurance adjusters and historic folks need to be involved with this,” states Fabrizio's Feb. 21 e-mail to Palus. “However, both (OCCA and OCCF) boards would really like to be able to get the bandshell functioning by Memorial Day weekend [for Territory Days]. Is there some assistance we can offer? The park is such an important part of this Old Colorado City area and I have had many people come to me and ask how they can help get this fixed.”
       Not hearing back from Palus, then learning from a news reporter about the stage having been boarded up that day, was not pleasing for Fabrizio Feb. 24. “They [City Parks] don't get how personal the park is to all of us,” she told the Pioneer.
       Her questions to Palus appear to have reflected broad-based uncertainty and frustration in Old Colorado City. Evident at the monthly OCCF meeting Feb. 21 - whose board includes
A City Parks crew completes the installation of a plywood barrier in front of the Bancroft Park bandshell Feb. 24.
Westside Pioneer photo
several OCC business leaders - were concerns about not knowing what Parks' plans were or even who to contact in the department office.
       A suggestion from multiple people, including Territory Days organizer Jim Wear, is that Parks consider temporary repairs, which would allow summer events to use the bandshell, during which time Parks could plan a permanent restoration. Otherwise, Wear has estimated it would cost him $2,000 a day to bring in a temporary stage - not to mention losing valuable space on the concrete area in front of the stage.
       Another to ask about a temporary repair was Lauren Ripko, organizer of this year's Taste of OCC, scheduled April 30. Including live music on the Bancroft stage (as in the past), the event is the OCCF's chief park fundraiser. In its first four years of operation - chiefly with proceeds from Taste - the OCCF has accumulated about $30,000 to help the city fund a future (as yet unscheduled) addition to the back of the bandshell building for modern public restrooms.
       A temporary bandshell fix has seemed plausible, considering that City Parks left the stage open for nearly a month after the fire, with only short nylon fencing placed around it and no signs warning people to stay away.
       Also, in a Pioneer interview with City Fire Investigator Jacob Pullfer Feb. 23 (the day before the full stage closure), he said his post-fire report to Parks stated only that the roof beams were charred - not that the building was
In a photo from the 2016 Taste of OCC event, Julie Fabrizio and Dave Van Ness pose for a moment in a booth selling Old Colorado City gear. Owner of the Holly Leaf store, Fabrizio is president of both the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group and its charitable nonprofit, the Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF). Van Ness is executive director of the OCCA and a member of the OCCF board.
Westside Pioneer file photo
“compromised” as a result. While emphasizing that fire officials do not see themselves as structural engineers, he noted that if he had believed the building was in danger of collapsing, he would have said so.
       However, Parks officials have recently been telling people otherwise. In response to a temporary-fix e-mail question from Ripko after the OCCF board meeting, Michelle Bies of Parks' Special Events Office responded that the "structure isn't secure enough to be used at all."
       Asked in a Pioneer e-mail where her “isn't secure” information came from, Bies did not reply.
       Schroeder then was asked about Bies' statement. Initially, he said only that what she commented was “based on the fact that the building was compromised by a fire.” The next day (Feb. 25), he e-mailed back to the Pioneer, elaborating that boarding up the bandshell was his own decision.
       “I came to that conclusion because I am going to err on the side of caution,” he wrote. “Any charred rafter beams would give me pause, much less ones that are almost 100 years old." [Editor's note: Actually, the structure was built in 1935.]
       Schroeder continued, “I would also venture to say that while the fire investigator made an accurate observation, he is not an engineer nor did he get up into the ceiling area to assess the damage. Right now as I understand it, half if not more of the roof will have to be replaced. This will not be easy or cheap especially since the roof structure is built with rafters and not trusses.”
       He was then asked for the source of his “half if not more of the roof” statement. The Pioneer had not yet received a reply when this article was posted Feb. 25. Update, Feb. 26: Schroeder said in an e-mail his source was the structural engineer, speaking informally on the day he went to the bandshell and looked at the damage.
       Schroeder did not completely discount the possibility of a temporary fix. “We believe it is only prudent to understand the full extent of the damages before we make any decision on how to proceed - whether it is an interim repair… or a complete repair, whatever that may mean,” he wrote. “To make a decision to do something without that professional input would be irresponsible.”
       Schroeder did note that a concern he had stated earlier in February, that asbestos might be in the stage wallboards, has proved unfounded, “thank goodness.”
       He said the city has a $25,000 deductible policy on its insurance for the bandshell, so (barring legal complications) if the actual repair cost was higher than that, the city's only share would be that deductible.
       It is not known how big a problem Parks will have finding money. In comments to the Pioneer earlier in February, Palus had listed funding (although without details) among several “hurdles” her department faces in restoring the bandshell.
       Two other questions to Schroeder concerned whether there would be a public meeting at some point and if electricity in the park (now turned off) would be restored. His replies are in quotes.
       - Public meeting - “Yet to be determined.”
       - Electricity - “We will be getting electric restored to the park so we can run the irrigation and lights and stuff.”
       Police have a continuing investigation into the fire, but have announced no suspects.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 2/25/17, updated 2/26/17; Community: Public Safety)

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