During the past few weeks, I have read with great disappointment articles where some disgruntled individuals wish to change the site of the future Routt County justice center. It is very discouraging that they are trying to second-guess the voters of Routt County with nothing more than "sour grapes" and without using common sense.
First, they had the chance to have the justice center downtown, but they blew it. Instead of a financially responsible project, they promoted an economic dinosaur that offered one problem after another. The voters of Routt County were able to see this and defeated the project in a fair election.
Secondly, it is not the responsibility of the residents of Routt County to ensure that Steamboat Springs' downtown businesses succeed. Despite what some think, the sun does not rise or set exclusively on Steamboat. Routt County is a community of several towns and rural areas that have survived and whose survival is not dependent on the location of the justice center.
If the residents of Steamboat are so concerned about the downtown area, then they should work on the problems that face that area and not blame main street problems on the new judicial facility. There are hundreds of towns in Colorado, and thousands of towns across this nation that have viable downtown areas that do not have judicial facilities to anchor them.
The problem with downtown Steamboat has nothing to do with the location of the judicial facility or county offices. Here are some of the problems that this group and Steamboat should be addressing:
n Taxation -- businesses downtown pay a higher and unfair proportion of the property tax burden. Of course, to change this, homeowners would have to start paying a higher share of the property taxes, and the results of the last election show they are unwilling to do this.
n Parking -- this is a terrible mess, and it is a wonder that anyone can even find a spot to park where they can spend a leisurely time strolling downtown to shop.
n Traffic -- rush hours in the morning and evening are as bad as any major street in Denver and making a left-hand turn on Lincoln Avenue is not only nearly impossible but also dangerous.
n Rules, regulations and fees -- there are so many, and they are so expensive that those businesses that would like to expand or find other ways to improve their customer appeal are so restricted or the financial burden is such that most small businesses either can't afford them upfront or will not be able to make the cost back quickly enough to remain in business.
Many of the businesses downtown rely on tourism. Tourists could not care less where the judicial facility is located. If moving the justice center is so devastating to downtown, why is the city ready to move residents of an affordable mobile-home park out to make room for a business complex?
If location of the justice center were so critical for downtown business, why would new businesses be relocating there? Every week I see stories in the Pilot & Today about new businesses opening in Steamboat. Surely these business owners have done their research.
Shoppers will not change their shopping habits just because the justice center moves. Even the employees of the justice center will still shop where they have historically shopped.
Safety has been one of the major issues for the justice center's design and location. This concern is not only for the safety of the public in the courtroom but also for the safety of police officers who have to move prisoners.
Remember Officer James Chew? He gave his life for the community because of problems handling prisoners in the downtown courthouse. We have been very lucky moving prisoners from the jail to the court. Let's protect our law enforcement officers by giving them the security and safety of a short move between the jail and the courtroom.
This group also referenced the community plan as part of its argument. Had they attended the county commissioners' meeting, they would have heard the plan. It had so many contradictions that it was a perfect example of how silly such plans can be. If this group is so concerned about the plan being followed, it needs to explore the decisions made by the City Council.
This continued debate is not solving problems; it is driving a larger wedge between Steamboat and the rest of the county.
If it is so important to have a judicial facility downtown, perhaps the group should explore the idea of forming a special taxation district to tax themselves to raise funds to build a downtown justice center. In that case, I'm sure the rest of us in the county wouldn't care where the facility was located.
It is time to accept the decision that is the will and in the best interest of the rest of the county.