County says no to meeting

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— Routt County commissioners said they do not want to schedule a meeting with the Steamboat Springs City Council to discuss the location of the new justice center, despite a councilman's request to do so.

Meanwhile, there are reports that some City Council members feel the city could help pay some of the costs of building the new justice center downtown to make that location more attractive to the county. No formal offers have been made.

City councilman Ken Brenner on Monday asked county commissioners to schedule a meeting at the county's convenience, saying that the two governments that are known for cooperation could "do better than letters."

"It is an opportunity that we would like to have, to sit and talk with you about this, to re-establish a dialogue," Brenner said. In the end, both groups "may agree to disagree," he said.

The city has made similar requests in the past, but on this occasion, Brenner was not formally sent by the City Council to Monday's meeting with commissioners.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said one reason the county does not want to schedule such a meeting is that it could jeopardize the county's permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county is asking for permission to fill in 1.4 acres of wetlands at its preferred justice center site next to the county jail, but received a preliminary denial from the Army Corps.

If the permit is denied, then the county will decide its next steps, Monger said.

Monger also said the county has not received any new information, has worked on the justice center issue for years with lots of opportunity for public input, and wants to see the project get done.

"We need to move on and start building," Monger said.

After the meeting, Brenner said that if the county agreed to talk with the council, there could have been some dialogue on the council offering financial assistance if the justice center stays downtown. City Manager Paul Hughes said that he has heard at least one council member talking about such assistance, but such a proposal had not been discussed formally at meetings.

County commissioners have stood by their decision, made more than a year ago, to build the new justice center at the site just west of downtown. That decision was made after a series of public meetings for various reasons, such as complying with community plans, providing for safer prisoner transport, keeping all county offices downtown, building a less expensive center, and responding to what most residents want.

The City Council, as well as some individuals and groups, have encouraged the county to reconsider the original downtown site to keep business and investment downtown.

The county's decision not to schedule a meeting with the city about the justice center while the Army Corps is still considering the wetlands application should not harm the relationship between the county and city, Monger said.

"It isn't going to harm (our relationship) on our end, and I would hope it isn't going to harm it on their end," he said.


-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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