Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs' new City Council wasted no time Tuesday tackling tough issues, creating what City Clerk Julie Jordan called "quite the list" of tasks for city staff.
Jordan and other city officials said they weren't necessarily surprised by the boldness of the seven-member council, which has five new members.
"I assumed from the discussion during the election that a lot of things were going to be brought up," said City Attorney Tony Lettunich, who was directed by a 4-3 vote Tuesday night to draft an ordinance repealing the city's temporary moratorium on demolitions of structures more than 50 years old.
Jordan said she saw the newly elected members' moves as efforts to make good on campaign promises. Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski agreed.
"Considering that we campaigned on change, they were probably a little prepared for that," Hermacinski said.
In addition to hints of policy changes, there also was a notable departure from council tradition. The City Council typically does not take action on items raised during public comment, but this one granted a request made during public comment by Steamboat attorney Kris Hammond. Hammond asked that the council consider staying the revocation of Kevin Nerney's liquor license, handed down by the previous council at a meeting last week of the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority. Nerney is the owner of the Jade Summit restaurant in Ski Time Square and its upstairs Pirate's Pub. Hammond represents Nerney.
The council voted, 4-3, to convene as the liquor authority on Dec. 5 and consider the stay.
"I think that's just sort of a practice that has evolved to give council control of the agenda," Assistant City Attorney Dan Foote said of the custom of not taking action on items raised during public comment.
City Council President Loui Antonucci, who voted in favor of considering the stay, noted that the council didn't take any significant action except to schedule the meeting. He said he felt it unnecessary to formalize the process by making the scheduling part of a future City Council agenda.
"We could have made it a multi-step process, but that seems to be cumbersome," Antonucci said.
Hermacinski, who voted against considering Nerney's stay, said Wednesday that she doesn't believe the council should be making on-the-spot decisions after public comment.
"I think that government should be a little more thoughtful and organized : rather than just responding haphazardly," Hermacinski said.
Antonucci said he was caught a bit off guard by all the issues that new council members raised in their first meeting. He said it normally takes new members a few meetings to get comfortable, but said he was encouraged by the "bright and energetic" group.
"I was pleased, but I was surprised," Antonucci said. "I think we're going to have a great council."
There will likely be even more hot-button issues discussed at next week's City Council meeting. Councilman Walter Magill directed city staff to provide a status update on the city's planned departure from the Routt County Regional Building Department.
Citing multiple concerns with the county department, the city decided earlier this year to end their intergovernmental agreement with the county. The city is analyzing a proposal by outside contractors SAFEbuilt to provide its building department services. The decision has been a contentious one and largely unpopular within Steamboat's construction community.
"I think we're going to be revisiting that whole issue soon," Antonucci said Tuesday after Magill's request.
When asked her opinion on the city possibly returning to the county building department, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said, "Staff goes by the direction of City Council."
DuBord did, however, note that the city's urban building department needs differ from needs in the rural part of the county and said Steamboat's arrangement is an anomaly.
"You won't find another city in the state that has the county provide their services," DuBord said. "It's just what every municipality in the state does. We're the odd duck."
DuBord, like Antonucci, expressed enthusiasm with the new council.
"It's always good to have new energy and new ideas," she said. "That's what keeps us engaged."