Our View: Tax question demands more detail


Editorial Board, February to May 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karen Massey, community representative
  • Jeff Swoyer, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

We are intrigued by the news this week that city officials are pursuing a plan to move fire and police stations out of downtown Steamboat while creating a fund to make improvements on Yampa Street.

The plan involves asking voters to approve a temporary city property tax to back a general obligation bond that would fund a new public safety campus on the city’s west side.

The idea behind the plan is that moving the fire station and ambulance barn out of downtown would eliminate a traffic hazard and dead spot in the commercial district along the Yampa River. With that accomplished, the municipal buildings, which generate no sales tax and are appraised at $3 million, would be offered for sale. The proceeds then could be channeled to projects to make Yampa Street more appealing to shoppers and diners.

We agree that having fire stations on either end of town is a good idea. We’re fans of the vitality that new development on Yampa Street already has brought to the area, and we certainly would like to see that continue.

But there are many questions to be answered before the voters will agree to tax themselves to put the plan into action.

Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said this week that the estimated $19.5 million cost of a new public safety center was deliberately placed at the “absolutely highest number.” And she confirmed that the intent is for the property tax to remain in place for only the length of time needed to retire the bonded indebtedness on the new building.

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 the maximum. Hinsvark added that owners of commercial property valued at $1 million could expect to pay $725 annually in taxes to support the bond issue.

Questions that cannot be answered at this time include when the downtown fire/police real estate would sell, what price it might bring and how the proceeds would be funneled into improvements on Yampa.

Sidewalks, curbs, parking and bike lanes for Yampa are addressed in the city’s $439,000 downtown streetscapes plan put together by Britina Design Group in May 2007.

However, before they are asked to tax themselves to build the new public safety center, the general public and the business community should be given more details about what kind of public safety building they would get for $15 million to $20 million, and what kind of Yampa improvements $2.5 million to $3 million could buy.

In a July 2011 editorial, we urged the city to begin fleshing out the details of Yampa improvements as a first step to reaching the ultimate goal.

We think that to persuade the voters, the city must make the case that the two very different projects bound up in this initiative can enhance public safety and enhance the local economy sufficiently to justify the financial burden of the temporary property tax.


Dan Hill 5 years, 1 month ago

Let's break this into the two separate questions it ought to be.

First, do we want to move the public safety facilities out of downtown? Probably yes at some point, but is this the right time to do it? Do we need new facilities right now, or are the current ones good for another 10-20 years? I don't know the answer, but after we spent millions of dollars on a new Soda Creek Elementary School, expenditure which will get us exactly zero improvement in education outcomes, I'm a little wary of public officials' plans for grand new edifices. If we are going to move it, is the budget realistic or is it padded? (Padded seems to be the answer from the City's own admission). Let's come up with realistic budget - and any proceeds from selling the land ought to be channeled to repaying these bonds.

Second, if the City wants to make improvements to Yampa Street it ought to be a completely separate issue with its own bonds, ideally funded by an improvement district tax, not a City-wide sales tax. That ought to work if the improvements will create the claimed commercial benefits.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

I disagree with the Pilot View on 2 counts.

  • Remember the incurable bottleneck at 13th St? Putting a public safety campus on the far side of that makes little sense to me.

  • Of course there will be a buyer. The realtors on City Council likely already know of one. Its simply a matter of price. But this is the worst possible time to sell property. Only a distressed owner would sell a Yampa Parcel today.

And I agree with Dan. Yampa St improvements should be a Yampa St. TIF, as used at the ski area base.


Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

The 13th St. bottleneck is not incurable. We have had "progressive" leadership in city hall that refused to even admit to a traffic problem. This problem has been intentionally ignored in order to leave our PC busses as the only alternative available. Planners tell us no more roads, but in this case we have not had a plan for over a century. All around us we seek to be more visitor oriented but in this case we seem to embrace 18 wheelers. Yampa St is becoming the place to be, lack of traffic is probably one of the reasons. Maybe the special interests on Main st. will start thinking beyond "playing not to lose" as has been my observation for decades. The leadership at chamber let us participate in their transportation forum, but that accomodation followed LBJ's theory of being better to have us on the inside pissin out. Relative workable solutions are available to those seeking answers. I seem to remember a 36 million $ idea for a new city hall but you can't fault trying.


rhys jones 5 years, 1 month ago

North bypass, or Fielding's, just get the trucks outta town.


Leslie Lovejoy 5 years, 1 month ago

I remember about 15 (?) years ago a 2-3 year run during the Caberet performances addressing the "Steamboat Bypass. It turns out that there is no real solution to this bottleneck unless the city is willing to drill a tunnel through Emerald Mountain (which might endanger the thermal springs) or build an overpass over Main St. (can't imagine that one passing a public vote). I have never found that the central location of the fire station and other emergency buildings located on Yampa to be a bother, during the past 29 years in Steamboat Springs. What is the hurry?


mark hartless 5 years, 1 month ago

Believe it or not I have actually heard the tunnel idea put forth by some long-time ranchers. I have to think it would be a monumental undertaking.

I don't think the fire station's current location is such a terrible thing either.

The value of the property transferred to private hands would be diluted by some convoluted deal the developer would foist on the taxpayers anyway. Especially when you add in the lost taxes of the place west of town that would go into public/ non-taxable use. We have way more pressing issues.


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