Steamboat Springs The public comment period on a permit to fill wetlands at the site of the new justice center ended Monday, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office in Frisco had received between 10 and 20 comments.
More comments could follow this week, as letters that were mailed Monday come in and comments sent to the Sacramento District office also make their way to the Frisco office, said Frisco Office Chief Tony Curtis.
Although it's typical for a project to receive a dozen or so comments, Curtis said he was surprised at the number of comments on this permit application.
"In our line of work, that's not a lot of comments, but it's more than I would have anticipated for this type of project," Curtis said.
If granted, the permit would allow the county to fill about 1.4 acres of wetlands on the five-acre parcel south of Routt County Jail along Shield Drive where the new justice center is planned.
The county has a court order to build the justice center by Sept. 1, 2006. The center is estimated to be about 50,000 square feet and to cost about $15.4 million.
Curtis said he had yet to accurately count the e-mails, faxes and letters the office received.
Once all of the comments are received, they will be sent to the county, which will then respond to the comments, Curtis said.
Depending on how quickly the county responds, the final decision on whether the Army Corps grants the permit could take between three and six months, Curtis said.
"We look at the project in relationship to its purpose and need," he said. "And then we determine what is the least environmentally damaging, practical alternative."
Through the process, the Army Corps has several options: grant the application as it is, encourage the county to make changes to the plans before granting the application, or deny the application, Curtis said.
Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said the county expected to receive comments on the permit application but hoped that the permit process wouldn't slow the county's timeline.
Curtis said a quick look at some of the comments suggests there are concerns with the location of the facility west of town near the Routt County Jail.
One of the comments came from the city of Steamboat Springs, which made three points in its letter. The letter said the city did not tell the county a parking structure would be required if the county builds the justice center downtown, that Routt County voters were never asked where to build the justice center but only to fund it, and that city sewer lagoons were not accurately drawn on several figures.
The Steamboat Springs City Council, which wrote a letter to the county in December encouraging the county to build the center downtown, is being more assertive in asking the county to keep the justice center downtown after receiving public comment at a council meeting, City Manager Paul Hughes said.
Another comment came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which encouraged the county to look at alternatives to building on a site that required filling wetlands and that if there weren't any alternatives, to minimize impacts, said biologist Terry Ireland. The Fish and Wildlife Service typically comments on all projects that could impact wetlands, he said.
Routt County has started the city planning process and will soon choose a construction manager in efforts to keep the timeline for construction on track.
The application to build the justice center was submitted to the city of Steamboat Springs on Dec. 23, and will be heard by the city's Technical Advisory Committee on Jan. 13. The committee identifies any technical issues that need to be fixed before the project is heard by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, said City Planner Tom Leeson.
It is likely that the planning commission will hear the project sometime in February, Leeson said. The cost of city planning processes will be about $7,750.
The county also plans to choose a construction manager for the project sometime next week. Five applications for the project were received, and county commissioners have decided to interview three of those companies on Wednesday, including Cavanagh, Inc., Fox Construction and Holmquist-Lorenz.