The city's role in the justice center

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Nancy Kramer is executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council. She also is an advocate for building a new justice center downtown.

Q. In 2002, Routt County asked voters for a tax increase to pay for a new judicial facility and parking garage in downtown Steamboat Springs. Voters rejected that proposal. Did you support that proposal?

A. I supported the proposal. I had the privilege of being on the original design committee for the new justice center and felt the committee and commissioners did an excellent job to meet the requirements for the ultimate approval of a development permit on the chosen site, which eventually was accomplished.

At that time, I did not think the parking structure was necessary for any use outside of accommodating county employees. It was clearly not the appropriate site for additional downtown business parking. This eventually was verified by a parking consultant.

Q. Where do you think the facility should be built now?

A. I continue to support the justice center downtown on the original site.

Q. The City Council recently suggested that the county could build a downtown judicial facility without a parking garage. How might this be accomplished?

A. Many city of Steamboat Springs City Council and staff, past and present have had a desire to develop a comprehensive parking, mobility and circulation plan for downtown Steamboat Springs. The evolution of the new Main Street program and the justice center debate have been the catalysts to get serious and off the dime to put a plan in place. We certainly have contributing factors such as U.S. Highway 40 as Main Street, but for all the traffic studies we have done, it is apparent to this elected official that there is an enormous level of denial that we, the residents, are the problem. The development of a plan would need to include, but not be limited to the following elements:

n Better use of the existing 3,000 parking spaces in and immediately adjacent to downtown.

n Effective use of Lincoln Avenue shuttles.

n Time-limited parking that is more inclusive of all zones downtown and well-enforced.

n Limited space for parking garages creating. We can't build our way out of everything. At current rates, it would cost the equivalent of 80 spaces to gain only 40 with the current constraints of available land.

Q. Does the current CDC requirement effectively address the future parking needs downtown?

A. Partnerships in the implementation and management of the plan are needed among employers, employees, business owners and institutions.

All of these points are critical to the development of a plan that will allow for maximum use of available parking and shuttle services to accommodate our work force and retail, restaurant, civic and institutional customers and guests. This will not be easy, but is way overdue.

Q. Are you concerned that the dispute over the judicial facility location has caused a rift between the city and county? If so, what can and should be done to repair that rift?

A. I think these difficult issues always have potential to be destructive to a relationship. It will be a test of personal will and civility on everyone's part to not have this end in a long-term damaging rift.

One of the most important aspects of leadership is to possess the ability to admit when you are wrong.

Mistakes have been made on both sides, such as a lack of direct communication of each others changing or evolving plans. The result has been political posturing, supported by third party influences such as statutory law or the Army Corp of Engineers that leverage one or the others' position.

The end result is destructive and does not empower us, as elected officials to "do the right thing" for the entire community of Routt County. Beyond the resolution of this issue, I am dedicated to continuing the good, cooperative work the city and county have exhibited on other critical issues and projects such as the Airport Commission, Wildland Fire and the Regional Housing Authority. All of which progressed through open dialogue and a working partnership among the two elected bodies.

Q. Recently, an appeals court threw out Judge Richard Doucette's order to build a new Routt County judicial facility by 2006. What do you think the impact of that ruling will be and what do you think the impact should be?

A. I hope the elimination of the time constraint could assist in accomplishing several goals, and bring resolution to the existing debate. Number one, it should allow for the commissioners to complete the program and space needs assessment for future county business which is just now being done.

This is a critical part of the decision. Number two, it should provide an opportunity for the city and county to discuss, in person, new information rising from the new Main Street program supporting government institutions being retained in the downtown core of communities. And finally, time to discuss the county's participation in the development and implementation of the parking, mobility and circulation management program for the downtown mentioned above.

Q. Would you support a ballot question on the location of a new justice center? Why or why not?

A. No. I think this would be an example of "leadership by referendum," which I do not support. This project has been under scrutiny in and out of the public process.

The commissioners are charged with and should ultimately make the final decision after completion of their needs assessment and consideration of any new information that is presented through the final stage of the decision-making process.

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