Council: Post office in violation of development agreement

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— The city has become the third party in the dispute about replacing the bridge connecting the Lincoln Avenue post office and the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center.

On Tuesday, the City Council authorized staff to send a letter telling the U.S. post office it is in violation of a development agreement signed in 1980.

Earlier this summer, the Health and Rec Association approached Steamboat Postmaster Bill Butler asking him to share costs in replacing the fallen bridge. But Butler refused even after the health and rec center offered to pay for the entire replacement. With property lines running down the center of Spring Creek, the Health and Rec Association cannot put up a bridge without the post office's permission.

Butler said the bridge would continue to encourage health and rec customers to park in the post office lot during working hours, causing overcrowded conditions. He also said the bridge could pose as an insurance liability.

Councilman Bud Romberg said after a little researching, city staff discovered the builders of the original building at the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue had agreed to build and maintain the bridge as a condition of approval. So when the building transferred ownership from Alpine Federal Savings to the U.S. post office, it also transferred the responsibility to maintain the bridge. And by refusing to allow a bridge to go up, the post office is in violation of that agreement.

"Under the condition of approval, the bridge has to be there. The fact that the bridge is now down makes the building not in compliance with the development permit," Romberg said.

But enforcing the compliance could be difficult because the post office is part of the federal government and could legally be absolved from following the building regulations of another government entity such as the city. And the situation is further muddled because the building permit approval was given to a nongovernmental agency, but the post office now owns the building.

The city's letter has not been sent. And as of Friday afternoon, Butler said he has heard nothing about the letter and cannot comment until he sees a copy. But as of now, he believes building a bridge would still be a deficit to the post office.

City Legal Staff Attorney Dan Foote said the letter will go out next week, and if the post office decides not to comply, the next step is to gather direction from the council.

Health and Rec Association Manager Pat Carney said the association has been lobbying congressmen, and U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis will follow up on the complaints. Butler also said his superiors in Denver have been in contact with State Sen. Jack Taylor and McInnis, but he does not know what they have discussed.

Down since late April, the bridge was heavily traversed by locals using the health and rec center wanting to pick up mail or people parking in the post office lot and heading over to the health and rec center. But without the bridge, which fell down when the Health and Rec Association attempted to repair it, customers have had to walk down the sidewalk and around the post office parking lot, passing two vehicle entrances along the way.

"I certainly hope Bill Butler decides that he and the postal office would like to be a good neighbor to the rest of the community," Romberg said.

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