Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters Brian Shively, left, and Scott Hetrick inspect a fire truck at the Steamboat Springs Central Fire Station on Tuesday afternoon. At Tuesday’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, city officials discussed the possibility of selling the current police headquarters and fire station at 840 Yampa St. and constructing a new public safety campus in west Steamboat.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters Brian Shively, left, and Scott Hetrick inspect a fire truck at the Steamboat Springs Central Fire Station on Tuesday afternoon. At Tuesday’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, city officials discussed the possibility of selling the current police headquarters and fire station at 840 Yampa St. and constructing a new public safety campus in west Steamboat.

Steamboat council discusses plan to move police and fire stations

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— Steamboat Springs voters could have a big say about the future of Yampa Street in November.

City officials hope to ask voters to fund the construction of a new public safety campus in west Steamboat, which would allow the city to sell its current police headquarters and fire station at 840 Yampa Street and convert the building into retail and office space.

Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that if a November ballot measure to fund such a project is successful, the city would move those facilities and Routt County Search and Rescue personnel, who work in an ambulance barn across the street, into a new public safety campus.

Officials already have identified five potential sites for such a facility near U.S. Highway 40 and Routt County Road 129.

Hinsvark said the move to the west could free up a “dead zone” on Yampa and jumpstart a revitalization project on the riverside street.

“The fire and police station on Yampa inhibits development,” she said. She added the move could eliminate what acting Public Safety Director Joel Rae called a public safety nightmare on Yampa.

“When you add a fire truck to the combination of the biking lanes, parallel parking, crosswalks and large groups of pedestrians in the summer, it creates a nightmarish situation” for the emergency responders, Rae said. “It creates some significant delays in terms of response time.”

He told the council that the 11,000-square-foot Yampa headquarters has space limitations for staff and storage and that it is not equipped to adequately house a full-time firefighting staff that must stay there 24/7. A city parking enforcement officer currently works out of a small storage closet, he added.

“This is not the place we belong from a public safety standpoint,” Rae said about the Yampa headquarters.

He said housing emergency responders in a new campus west of downtown ultimately would give them more breathing room and decrease response times, among other benefits.

Yampa revitalization

City officials said the revenue from the sale of the current police headquarters lot, which extends a block and has been appraised at $3 million, could be injected into a revitalization project on Yampa that has yet to be fully developed. Hinsvark said that the lot is separated into six sections and that pieces of it could be sold separately. She added that the city envisions the ambulance barn that currently houses Search and Rescue would be demolished and converted into a riverside park if a new public safety complex is constructed.

City officials estimate the construction of the campus would cost a maximum of $19.5 million. Officials added that if voters approved a general obligation bond, a Steamboat resident who owns a $500,000 home would pay a property tax of $99.50 per year for the bond if the construction cost came in at that maximum estimate.

Moving forward

City Council members on Tuesday night greeted the proposal with excitement and enthusiasm and voted unanimously to allow city staff to continue exploring its viability. The council ultimately will decide in August whether to ask voters to fund the project.

“This is great stuff. It’s exciting. It’s forward thinking, and it’s wonderful,” Councilman Kenny Reisman said. “But the plans for the Yampa Street revitalization currently are ambiguous.”

Before they voted to allow the public safety campus project to move forward, council members agreed the city needs a concrete and clear plan for the revitalization of Yampa before it asks voters to fund the new home for the emergency responders. Some council members also advised city staff to seek alternative funding sources, such as grants, to lower the project’s eventual price tag.

But not all council members agreed as to how the city should draft a new plan to revitalize Yampa.

Council members Cari Hermacinski and Reisman voted against Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs’ proposal to pay the Urban Land Institute $15,000 to travel to Steamboat to develop a revitalization plan with Yampa stakeholders in July. Hermacinski expressed concern that funding the revitalization plan with taxpayer dollars could make it appear as though the council was influencing a potential election on construction of the public safety complex. She also questioned whether it was worth the cost.

Gibbs responded that he thought the Urban Land Institute panel would develop a plan that would be actionable and worth the cost.

While discussions about the future of Yampa continue, city officials said they plan to move forward with working on the proposal.

Hinsvark said the city starting Wednesday will accept bids to purchase the police and fire departments’ facility on Yampa.

She told the council that Big Agnes, which has multiple offices in Steamboat, is a business that already has expressed some interest in moving into the building.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, City Council members:

• Voted unanimously to permit the construction of a public restroom, transit facility and parking lot paving project at River Creek Park.

• Heard a presentation on the plan to transform Chief Plaza Theater into a single-stage performing arts center.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

I understand the space needs. But it seems straightforward the proposed location will actually increase response times in many cases downtown and to the south.

Thinking longer term, this plan moves these facilities to the far side of our incurable bottleneck. And haven't exiting studies shown that section of highway expected to have the lowest levels of service, i.e. the most delays?

A remodel for the existing space seems smarter, and a lot cheaper.

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Clay Ogden 2 years, 5 months ago

This would easier to bite off on if the proceeds of the sale were dedicated to reducing the bond for the new facility. Shuffling the proceeds to an as yet undefined 'improvement' on Yampa just smells like a shell game to me.

Steve, I think, has a really valid point about the bottleneck ... which I never never understood because in LA they'd fit six lanes on that asphalt!

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Clay, That's a good observation. Beyond the square feet Joel needs, is this about new sidewalks or are we renovating the Yampa district?

If the latter, a tax improvement district (TIF) on Yampa Street itself is the fair way to do this. How many business owners at the ski area want to be financing improvements downtown after they TIF'ed their own improvements at the base.

Its too close to November voting to begin a proposal like this for this next ballot. Last Spring the airline tax came to us amidst a list of core trail extensions, transit improvements and other CIP type amenities. Near the ballot deadline we had an airline tax only ballot question that never really got a community vetting. Details like City representation were addressed after the fact. This proposal invites the same hazards - 6 months and competing agendas. Real estate development is one thing. Space for City services is another. Mixing these two agendas is something this council, in particular, should avoid.

The extra lanes to 40 West are many millions of dollars. $70 million was the whole highway enchilada established in the fiscal impacts of SB700. This would be less, but still a lot. The bottleneck at 13th St. is another matter, and will never be more than the 4 lanes existing there now.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Now that you mention it... John Fielding offers an interesting southern bypass for US 40, over Emerald/Howelsen, an aggressive plan which includes a parking structure for the new nordic center access... while I prefer a northern bypass, taking off near 7-11, rejoining around Hilltop, elevated much of the way. Any way to get the trucks out of town which aren't stopping anyway, so we can close off Lincoln and make it a pedestrian mall, much as Aspen did decades ago. Even if it costs a zillion dollars, we've got the money. Just don't trash Yampa with more traffic, PLEASE.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 5 months ago

Rhys, Those bypasses were estimated at $100's of millions in costs. Putting a bypass through Strawberry Park? I don't agree with that one, even if it was free.

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