County preparing studies for Army Corps

Studies will cost $15,000

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— Three studies that could help determine whether a new Routt County justice center is built west of downtown Steamboat Springs are expected to be completed and submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the next week or two, county commissioners said Monday.

Commissioners expect the Army Corps to issue a final decision on a county wetlands permit application shortly after the studies are finished.

At issue is whether the Army Corps will allow the county to fill 1.4 acres of wetlands at the proposed justice center site adjacent to Routt County Jail.

In late June, the Army Corps informed commissioners that it reached a preliminary decision to deny the wetlands permit request.

The denial was based upon the Army Corps' belief that building a new justice center downtown would cause less environmental damage than building at the five-acre site west of downtown.

A week later, at a July 7 meeting between county officials and Tony Curtis, the chief of the Frisco regulatory office for the Sacramento District of the Army Corps of Engineers, commissioners were told the Army Corps would consider information from three additional studies before making a final decision on the permit.

Those studies include information on the flooding dangers of building the justice center at the alternative downtown site, the parking needs at the downtown site and the security benefits of building at the county-preferred west of downtown location.

County Building Director Tim Winter told commissioners on Monday that a draft of the security study has been submitted to the county for review and the fieldwork for the parking study has been completed.

Both the parking and security studies should be finished this week, Winter said.

"We should have two of the three competed by the middle of the week," Winter said, adding that he's unsure when the floodplain study will be completed.

County Commissioner Doug Monger said copies of the completed studies will be made available to the public.

The cost of the studies is estimated at $15,000.

County commissioners have firmly stood by their belief that the proposed 52,000-square-foot, $15.5 million justice center building is best suited for the west of downtown location.

The county has faced opposition from several groups, including the Steamboat Springs City Council and Friends of the Justice Center, a group that advocates keeping courtrooms and related offices in downtown Steamboat.

Monger said the commissioners are in the process of drafting a letter to the city of Steamboat outlining their reasons for supporting a west-of-downtown justice center.

Commissioner Nancy Stahov-iak said the letter, which she hopes will be completed early next week, will lay forth the same reasons and information for building west of downtown that the commissioners have stated since the debate began.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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