Saturday, August 28, 2004
Routt County Commissioners' stubbornness is not serving the public interest.
In typical Routt County "cart before the horse" fashion, they assert that a recent space-needs study justifies a decision they made months ago. The commissioners claim the study proves that the downtown site is needed for future county office expansion.
The public was not told about this need before the failure of the bond initiative at the ballot.
The commissioners say the Justice Center is just too big for the downtown site. This didn't deter their unwavering support for the downtown location for the past 10 years.
They're talking quite a bit lately about the danger of transporting prisoners from the jail to the justice center. Before the election, the only safety issue the public was informed about was the lack of separate zones of circulation in the existing courthouse, which sometimes allowed the staff, the public, and the defendants to come into contact with each other.
They're still trying to gin up the need for a parking structure, thereby artificially inflating the cost of building downtown, to bolster the now intellectually bankrupt notion that it's cheaper to build out west.
It behooves the commissioners to do the following:
n Fire the architects immediately. No matter how experienced they are at building suburban medical centers, they are not familiar with the history or the future direction of Steamboat Springs. They cannot possibly design an appropriate structure for our city.
n Hire an architect with experience in historic preservation and downtown infill development. Nan Anderson, architect of Centennial Hall, comes to mind.
n Stop slavishly adhering to state design standards as if they're etched in stone. Realize that they are only guidelines.
n Acknowledge new trends in criminal justice, such as video conferencing and alternative dispute resolution, which reduce the need for infrastructure, particularly four courtrooms with seating for 150 people or more.
n Abandon the assumption that our region will continue to grow, indefinitely, at more than three times the national growth rate. This growth rate, which is unsustainable and undesirable, formed the foundation for projections of how large a facility we would need and how long it would last.
The situation has mushroomed from a straightforward question of where to locate a justice center to the thornier issue of whose interests the commissioners represent and to what extent they are willing to betray the public's trust to satisfy those interests.
Why should the future of Steamboat Springs be so profoundly affected by a single development proposal foisted on us by two individuals who are increasingly overt in their misguided belief that county residents, outside of the city, should determine the future location of the justice center (as opposed to its cost, which they have every right to determine), but would not allow Steamboat Springs residents to tell them where to put a gravel pit?
Only the commissioners know, and they're not talking.
Nancy Stahoviak turned the truth on its head by saying that the city refuses to discuss the issue and is "browbeating" the commissioners to change their decision. Dan Ellison, who cast the dissenting vote in the split decision to build near the jail, has been characteristically silent ever since. Doug Monger, who said that the study quantified his gut feeling, should stick to administrative tasks and leave the "vision thing," as George H.W. Bush called it, to people who can see without the aid of statistics.
They've already put us $3.5 million in the hole and haven't turned a shovel of dirt. Now they're saying, if they don't get their way, they'll buy a third parcel of land.
The commissioners' refusal to discuss the issue is fundamentally undemocratic. This is conduct unbecoming of public servants.
The commissioners have clearly lost sight of the public's interest. Perhaps the upcoming election is the only thing that can bring it back into focus.