Sights set on old hospital

Lawmen will use building for training

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— Before Routt Memorial Hospital is razed to make way for a residential development, tactical units from the Steamboat Springs Police Department and the FBI will use the building and the grounds for some serious training.

Starting this morning, the police department's seven-member emergency response team and a 13-member FBI team from the Denver bureau will be on site and ready for action.

The training by the two tactical teams will wrap up on Thursday evening.

"This is a unique challenge because the hospital has long hallways with several rooms on both sides," said Steamboat Springs Sgt. Joel Rae, the commander of the unit. "It also has several stairwells. This is one of the biggest challenges we will face. The building is similar to a school-type setting.'

The teams will be clad in their tactical gear, helmets and shields, and armed with weapons that will fire rounds that make marks where they hit, Rae said.

During the two days of training, the teams will practice procedures used in a number of emergency circumstances.

For example the teams will work on hostage rescues, serving arrest warrants in hostile environments and on getting through locked doors quickly, efficiently and safely, Rae said.

The squads also will work on team movement as they move through the vacant hospital's numerous rooms, hallways and stairwells.

A number of volunteers will be involved, acting as suspects and victims, Rae said.

"We use this training as a source of preparation to be prepared for any type of situation that might arise in the community," Rae said. "The training ensures safety for our self and the community."

The Steamboat department was able to negotiate with the property's owner, Herald Stout, to use the hospital building and three nearby homes, said Detective Robert DelValle, an ERT member.

"We are always looking for places that are abandoned or about to be demolished," DelValle said. "With the hospital, we knew it was available and abandoned. (Stout) has generously let us use the property for training. It is appreciated."

Stout plans to have the old hospital downtown and other buildings on the property razed to make way for a residential development called Park Place.

"I thought it was a good productive idea for the police department and the community," he said. "They don't get to train in this type of facility very often. If this saves one life, it is worth it."

On four acres, Stout is planning to build 26 homes around a community park. The site will be home to 14 single-family lots and eight condominium and four townhome units.

"We put off the demolition schedule by a little bit" to allow for the training, Stout said. "On March 15, we will start to tear it apart."

Along with working with the FBI team, the Steamboat department also will learn from two FBI instructors who will be evaluating the training.

"The FBI does this type of training a lot more than we do," Rae said. "They have instructors they donate to police departments. By working with them, we form a good relationship if we ever have a long drawn-out incident where they would be called in for help."

The last time the Steamboat ERT had a field training exercise was in 1998 when they used the Sheraton Hotel, Rae said.

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