Oscar Mondragon, from Peru, watches television and enjoys lunch inside his room at the Iron Horse Inn near downtown Steamboat Springs. Mondragon, who works at Tequilas and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, shares the room with three other people.

Photo by John F. Russell

Oscar Mondragon, from Peru, watches television and enjoys lunch inside his room at the Iron Horse Inn near downtown Steamboat Springs. Mondragon, who works at Tequilas and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, shares the room with three other people.

Iron Horse decision planned

City staff seek 'immediate direction' on inn's future at council meeting

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Affordable housing

Housing manager Darrell Randall discusses how the Iron Horse Inn is being used by the city of Steamboat Springs to provide affordable housing for workers.

Housing manager Darrell Randall discusses how the Iron Horse Inn is being used by the city of Steamboat Springs to provide affordable housing for workers.

— The oft-debated future of the Iron Horse Inn could be put to rest tonight.

City staff is seeking immediate direction from the City Council about what to do with the motel purchased for the purpose of providing affordable rental housing to city employees and others.

The city's acquisition of the property has been a somewhat controversial subject since the $4.05 million purchase in September. The purchase was approved by the previous City Council. But after the November election in which three incumbents were defeated and five new members were added, council members began to question the wisdom of the purchase and what to do with the property.

The Iron Horse Inn is honoring its existing reservations through the ski season and also is providing short-term rental housing. The city had planned to spend $1 million converting the inn's hotel rooms into apartments available for long-term rental after the close of the ski season. However, city calculations show that abandoning the redevelopment - and continuing to operate the property as it is being run now - would be more cost effective.

Divesting the property also is an option, but city officials have said a sale - especially an immediate one - would be difficult because of the way the city's purchase of the inn was structured.

City staff estimates show the inn losing $667,174 throughout a 10-year period if it is redeveloped into apartments. Without a reconfiguration, the inn would net a profit of $177,771, according to the staff report. The report notes that the previous City Council thought addressing affordable housing was worth subsidizing a redeveloped property.

"The previous City Council felt that the Iron Horse was a way to provide work force housing and would be an important recruiting tool like other city employment benefits," reads the report, which notes the $2.5 million the city will spend on health insurance for its employees in 2008.

Nearly 30 of the Iron Horse Inn's rooms are being rented to local workers. Iron Horse Inn General Manager Darrell Randall said most of those rooms are booked through April.

"Everyone is real happy," said Randall, who noted that some tenants are paying as little as $12.50 a day in shared rooms.

The inn is home to employees of Yampa Valley Medical Center, City Market, Steamboat Sheraton Resort and other businesses, in addition to city employees. City employees currently living at the Iron Horse include bus drivers and even upper management. Philo Shelton, the city's newly hired director of public works, is in the process of buying a home, but said he couldn't find anywhere else to live on a month-to-month basis. Other rental opportunities, he said, required a six-month or one-year lease.

"In relocating, for me and my family, it worked out great," Shelton said. "I know from looking at places it's good to have that available."

Shelton thinks the Iron Horse is a valuable asset for the city, especially considering Steamboat's high number of seasonal employees. Randall agreed, noting the time it can take to find a home in Steamboat.

"Most of the people who want to transition to an apartment or house, it's taking one to two months to do," Randall said.

In addition to the staff report, Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski also prepared a financial analysis assessing the two options for the Iron Horse Inn. Her conclusions differ from the staff report, because of different assumptions for revenues and expenses. According to Hermacinski, the redevelopment option would lose $930,782 throughout 10 years, while continuing to operate the inn as it is now would result in a loss of $537,808.

City Manager Alan Lanning said Hermacinski's report represents an unusual foray into work traditionally not done by an elected official.

"Research and the preparation of stuff has traditionally been a part of the staff's responsibility," Lanning said. "That's what we do for a living."

Iron Horse proponent and councilwoman Meg Bentley, while noting Hermacinski's right to have questions answered, said she hopes for a speedy resolution to the issue so City Council can move on to other important topics.

"I think if Cari has questions about it, she needs to get those answered so she can feel good about it," Bentley said. "But one of the main problems that people had with the last council was that they were constantly second-guessing themselves. I would like to put this whole questioning of the Iron Horse to rest, and I hope it certainly comes out in favor of keeping the Iron Horse.

Also at today's meeting, the City Council will discuss the future of the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority. The council has served as the authority in the past; a function the current council has expressed an interest in delegating. Having researched authority configurations in other Colorado communities, City Clerk Julie Jordan is recommending the city split the local Liquor License Authority into two divisions: administrative and compliance.

Jordan recommends the City Council continue acting as the administrative division that would hear and review applications for new licenses. A hearing officer hired by the city would handle compliance issues.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

We have a number of good property management companies in town. Give it to one of them to manage so at least the parking lot gets plowed and dead cars are removed. The place is already becoming an eyesore right at the entrance to town.

Now we have a hybrid of public housing and the city competing with the private sector. This was a mistake. I guess we have to make the best of it.

What we need is another development like Walton Pond that provides budget rental housing in a nice setting. That should be part of the "700". The city could commit to a block of units for employees without owning them if that is what they need to attract people.

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stompk 6 years, 10 months ago

I see some good moves being made by the new council.

Since we're stuck (city wize) with the Iron Horse, we might as well continue to keep the property the way it is, and maybe have some of those living VERY CHEAPLY pitch in and help spruce up the property.

With some help from the tenant, and a few strategic minor upgrades, we could take that small $177,000 profit and and increase it, by property values.

Next time we need to buy something, and we have the money in the kitty, let's not finance it. We need to keep the banks out of our city finances.

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another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

Another thought; I love it that Lanning's response to Cari is to question her action of investigating the the numbers herself rather than to address the numbers. Great turf protection.

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annonymous 6 years, 10 months ago

Did I miss something? Are City Council members elected to do work for which staff is hired or are they the policy makers? I believe the headline says it all - Council make a decison - do you want workforce housing or don't you. If the answer is yes, then let your staff carry out your policy decision. If the answer is no, then direct your staff to dispose of the Iron Horse. Just pick one and let's move on to the next policy topic.

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ThreeJobs 6 years, 10 months ago

City should be really proud to pack FOUR to a motel room so that imported low wage labor is available.

The new public works director's (Shelton) "endorsement" only shows how stupid this purchase was. Maybe Lanning's fuzzy math can show how spending millions to buy a property is smarter that just paying a differential on a six month lease for this guy.

Member Tony Seaver is right. (see seperate Pilot article on YVHA) Abolish the housing authority. The entrenched city officials will never relinquish control of the money pot they created with "linkage." City officials won't even disclose how much money is in the pot or how they inend to use it!

By the way, how are things going with the city's purchase of the trailer park? Plans? Budget? Changes? Progress? Who is in charge of this project?

We can only hope that the current city council is able to get some answers. Looks from here that Lanning has circled the wagons and will do whatever he can to protect "his" turf.

After all the analysis is done , my bet is that it will clearly show that the city should not be in the housing business.

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Gadfly 6 years, 10 months ago

It certainly looks as if the City Manager is telling City Council to mind its own business. I thought it WAS Council's business to protect our tax dollars and the City's finances.

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id04sp 6 years, 10 months ago

Four to a room.

Great.

Can't wait for the first homicide.

Has anybody checked the occupants for green cards?

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 10 months ago

I would call this a liberal elite boondogle, "suckerfreeforlife", would just call it a boondogle......................

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another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

The "unrelated" rule is not enforced. Perhaps they could clean up the ordinance by removing it but why bother? There are probably old ordinances on the books about how to tie horses on lincoln ave as well.

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corduroy 6 years, 10 months ago

Am I the only one who sees something seriously wrong with 4 people in ONE room? Pack in as many and the rate per day goes down? Sort of the reverse of a hotel.

In college at least when there was 4 to a room you had your own bed. I see 2 beds in that room. How is that good housing?

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elphaba 6 years, 10 months ago

SBVOR - You are right - The City Council is not being given the information they need to govern - that is the job of staff. Fire Lanning - find a way to get rid of the Iron Horse and get on with life.

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speakingup 6 years, 10 months ago

It seems as if you've forgotten that we didn't like the past Council's habit of micromanaging and doing the work of our paid city staff. If I read this article correctly, Cari is going beyond even what Towny did when he got involved in creating his fee in lieu numbers. Personally, I want our council focusing on policy and goals not the every day work our staff is supposed to do. Also, from what I hear, Cari is making staff run around to do her bidding the same way Ken use to.

As far as housing issues go, I've read your complaints and agree with some of them. But what are we supposed to do? The way this new Council is on the fast track to approve annexation, I doubt that they're going to focus much on affordable housing out in 700.

Let's see, micromanagement, overusing staff, second thinking decisions that have been made, and not focusing on goals and policy... It seems as if nothing much has changed, despite all the promises!

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below_me 6 years, 10 months ago

I am not sure why the city is subsidizing housing for employees of the Sheraton, Tequilas, City Market and other businesses.

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below_me 6 years, 10 months ago

Then at least get us a new sign at the edge of town "Welcome to the Peoples Republic of Steamboat Springs"

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btheball 6 years, 10 months ago

It is VERY telling that Lanning tries to write off Hermacinski's report - as if it isn't at least prudent, if not Council's responsibility to check the accuracy and validity of staff findings at any given time - as bosses do. There are several examples at this point of Alan Lanning's disregard of the chain of command - citizens, Council, Manager/Staff - in that order. The last Council let him get away with it (they were the ones who hired him).

This Council needs to let him know that there is no Mayor in this town. Alan Lanning may never get used to the idea of having a new sheriff (Council) in town that he is subservient to. Let's hope the new Council can stand up - like Cari did in carring out some independent fact checking which is needed and appropriate more often than not at this point. Please keep it up.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 10 months ago

So many of you agree its better that those now in the Iron Horse should be living in Oak Creek, Craig or Hayden? You prefer that traffic? Would you also prefer your employees live outside of town?

Finding rental housing in Steamboat is not just a matter of paying higher wages when the rentals are scarce.

  • Steve Lewis
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another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

As a condition of annexing the "700":

Require a significant portion of the development to be under 1000' 2 and 3 bedroom apartments for rent and condos for zoned for NO nightly rentals.

The nice ideal of inexpensive property for purchase is nifty, but what we need is inexpensive rentals like Walton Pond.

Do not spend a nickle of public money doing it. Just make it a condition of annexation.

With regard to the "living wage" comments above: What is that exactly for what level of skill and responsibility? Do you understand that wages here are already higher than almost anywhere? How much more are you willing to pay for goods and services?

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annonymous 6 years, 10 months ago

pt22 - perhaps you should get the facts before you comment. The private businesses rent the rooms at market price and THEY then subsidize their employees by renting the rooms to their employees at a lower rate. Additionally, where in the article does it state that there are 4 people sharing a 2-bed room. As I understand it, there are several units with two bedrooms, each having two beds. Perhaps the four occupants opted for this arrangement to keep their individual costs down. Everyone realizes that all the facts can't be relayed in a short newspaper article.

As for maid service for the employee units, again, you need to get the facts. Please remember that this facility is still a hotel and those rooms rented on a nightly basis must be cleaned and maintained.

It seems that many of the folks commenting in this forum don't truly understand the issue and the community's economic need for viable workforce housing that the private sector is NOT willingly providing. Sbvor is a coward and a bully who offers the same rhetoric, and continues to hide behind the veil of an anonymous forum rather than offering a real solution. Perhaps Sbvor might attend a City Council meeting or seek the facts from City staff in order to more fully understand the issue. It's easy to throw stones from afar.

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Hadleyburg_Press 6 years, 10 months ago

"It seems that many of the folks commenting in this forum don't truly understand the issue and the community's economic need for viable workforce housing that the private sector is NOT willingly providing. " If that is the case then the market will dictate that these employers won't have employees. Why is it the public sectors responsiblity to step in and monkey with the market by providing housing for private entities? Doesn't this create a situation where the employees are ultimately paid less than the market should bear? If you are talking about housing public emplyees then you have more of an argument.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 10 months ago

annoymous, "sbvor" has offered solutions time and time again, your own reading is somewhat selective, please go back to a number of posts over the years for that matter, he/she has provided very lucid arguments against the government sticking their nose into housing as well as comprehensive recommendations, and practical ideas to accomodate the housing issues without causing a lot of permanent market damage.

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armchairqb 6 years, 10 months ago

Was any one at the city council meeting tonight? They spent so much time B.S.ing about the Iron Horse it was ridiclulus ! the only thing I got out of it was (and I'm no accountant) that they discussed taking the profits that it earns and paying for upgrades to the roof and electric. As I said I'm no accounant but if maintenence is an expense and there is no money left after expenses then there is no profit.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 10 months ago

I went to CC tonight. The only public comments were favorable to the Iron Horse as housing. One reality there. Another here.

-Steve Lewis

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Scott Wedel 6 years, 10 months ago

What is utterly ridiculous is that 4 adults, unless all are related, may not legally share a 4 bedroom house in Steamboat. So at the same time that worker housing is so scarce, the City is willing ro prosecute property owners for allowing that in their house.

I am all for requiring a propety provide sufficient parking for all vehicles, saying no more than 2 per adults per bedroom and such, but to have a City law stating that no more than 3 unrelated adults may live in a house is ridiculous.

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id04sp 6 years, 10 months ago

sbvor,

Exactly the same thing happened in Columbia, Maryland. The junkies simply ended up with a shorter walk to rob the houses of the people who went to work every day.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 10 months ago

Sbvor, This anonymous blog is the new town meeting place? Maybe in your world.

There is real world outside your door, where discussions have neighbor's names and faces attached to them.

And honestly, in that world the most common comment on this blog is: "Why do you bother reading that, its the "same 10 people, day after day".

I guess I'm here because I find it so one sided. And its the middle of winter. -Steve Lewis

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stompk 6 years, 10 months ago

The current city council was handed this mess, it will be a good test for them to handle this expediently and in the best interests of all.

Since the bank stands to make 6 million in this little financing fiasco, they probably won't relinquish their hold on the elusive cut they stand to make at the taxpayer expense.

We are angry at the wrong people. Who is the financier? We need to petition them to get out of this. That is why their not dumping it.

Future property values are beginning to level off, imo.

The Iron Horse may become an Iron Anchor.

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armchairqb 6 years, 10 months ago

Iron Horse is a ripoff on more then just the level of expense to the city. A prospective employee came in today asking for a job and stated he was living at the Iron Horse. So I inquired as to what he was paying, he said 57 dollars per day. Four adults to a room with 2 queen beds. Do the math that's 1700 a month. I know of plenty of mortgages for private houses cheaper then that. How about fire regulations. What kind of liability is the city looking at if someone dies in a fire at the Iron Horse?

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another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

According to my employees, the going rate for shared condo's in places like Shadow Run, etc is about $600 per month per person. That person staying at the Iron Horse needs to find a better deal.

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katrinkakelly 6 years, 10 months ago

Send the $10.00-14.00 dollar an hour, if that, bust their butt employee up to Cherry Drive to rent a decent house for the money. Then watch how the holier than thou neighbors force the hard working people out (by harrasing the owner) because there are four adults paying the owners mortgage that are not related in the home! I absolutely know several people who have similar horror stories of that after commuting for years from Hayden, The Ditch (Oak Creek) and anywhere in BETWEEN! I really am not sure what the answer is to this MESS with Iron Horse, lawsuit anyone?

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armchairqb 6 years, 10 months ago

So do you think its right that 4 adults are sharing 2 beds? They are not related, nor do they wish to share beds, however they came here from another country & feel that this IS the way we treat everyone in STEAMBOAT?????? This is NOT right & this is not fair & certainly NOT afforadable housing!!! Sounds like we are ripping these people off & giving them false information before they arrive. Oh yeah!!!! Does anybody rememeber the BILBOARD you pass in Golden..that states 100% Friendlier!!!! Not the message I think we want to advertise.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 10 months ago

Private market is better?? Not for the employee, that's for sure. A 610 sq ft Walton Village 1 BDRM unit used to rent for $700-800 when we lived there from 1996-2001. You could buy one then for about $80,000 in 2001. Now they sell for $250,000+ and they rent for $1000 or higher a month. Sounds like for the worker, sharing a bedroom for $300ea. instead of $500+ is a much better option, depending on the amenities.

Plus, how many people (who have lived here as young adults) remember renting 1 or 2 bdrm units and having 4-6 ppl in there to keep rent down per person? raises hand Now, how many of those people have done that with multiple locations in Steamboat over multiple years? raises hand

Then again, I've lived here since 1978 and also work in the property management sector.citing hands-on experience

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 10 months ago

HEY When was the last time you tried to rent an appartment? You need to fill out a background check and be able to show you have the ability to pay the rent.

You also are asked to sign a one year lease.

How does a temorary or seasonal worker know if they can stay for a year, and be able to pay their rent? The option of the Iron Horse is to allow workers to have a place to sleep while in SS.

How many of those workers work 16 hour days? So they will not have to be in the "room" for anything other than sleeping? The four persons who share the room may be on different shifts so that there is never more than 2 persons in the room sleeping.

This is a world that is very different from what most of us are used to living.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 10 months ago

wannabe- This is "employee housing" that's being talked about, though. Employee Housing is usually picked up by the company at a longer term rental rate, then sub-leased for their employees. If the employee leaves the company, they are usually asked to vacate the employee housing. It's conditional on continued employment. Each individual employees signs an individual lease, most times. That's why their roommates are picked for them. Sometimes, if the worker has friends within the company, they can chose to room together to eliminate the unknown roommate factor.

In the private market, yeah- you have that many more hoops to go thru, and it will most likely cost you more. You'll have more control over your place, though.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 10 months ago

Have you ever made the commute from Stagecoach? 15min? Good luck. Try a half hour during "rush hour." Hell, it take me 15-20 minutes from Silver Spur during the rush from Craig-Milner.

Then there's gas for commuting each day, at least 10-15miles each way. Then, you MUST have a vehicle. Amazingly enough, there are local workers who ride the FREE BUS in Steamboat to get to and from work.

Boy, for claiming your a local, you really have no local experience in how things are out here. Then again...you only SAY you moved here in 1995. Still can't provide a link where you can prove that, eh?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 10 months ago

Dispute the claim, then. Show me the Town Hall link that proves me wrong on this. Take the challenge!!

How many people here drive from Stagecoach?

How many people here drive from Stagecoach in the winter?

How many people here drive from Stagecoach during the morning or afternoon rush hour in 15min?

How many do this without having a vehicle to drive?

Now- for whining: You want a link to all you whining about taxes, Socialists, taxes, Liberals, Global Warming, taxes, etc? All you posts pertain to whining. Period. Need proof? Here ya go- Whiner Central: http://www.steamboatpilot.com/users/sbvor/comments/

Must suck to be you and be wrong all the time, but that what a lack of experience brings.

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