Members of the Steamboat Springs CIty Council last week gave their initial reactions to the plan to build a police station on a corner of Rita Valentine Park.

Photo by Scott Franz

Members of the Steamboat Springs CIty Council last week gave their initial reactions to the plan to build a police station on a corner of Rita Valentine Park.

Steamboat Springs City Council has mixed views of idea to build police station on Rita Valentine Park

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The plan to build a police station on a corner of Rita Valentine Park is getting negative reviews from nearby residents and members of the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Council members on Tuesday night had mixed views of the city's idea, with one member wanting to scrap it immediately.

“This is a park, and I've heard plenty of people say it should remain a park,” Sonja Macys said.

Macys said city staff is too far ahead of the council on the planning and she hasn't heard anything positive from the community about potentially rezoning 3 acres of open space in the 35-acre park to accommodate a new station near the intersection of Hilltop Parkway and Mill Run Court.

She said the city should cancel the upcoming community meetings Public Safety Director Joel Rae has scheduled for Tuesday and Sept. 5 to get feedback on the proposal.

But other council members see the upcoming community meetings as a necessary part of the process, and don't want them cancelled.

“I wouldn't want to pull anything off the table. I think there is information that is going to come from (these meetings) and I think staff is doing the work we've asked them to do,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

He reminded the council that it voted unanimously in May to have city staff continue planning the construction of the new station.

Fearing backlash

The recent revelation that the city has identified Rita Valentine as its preferred building site already has angered several neighbors of the park.

It also has started another debate among council members about how city staff should proceed with the plans for the new police station.

On one end, Kounovsky said he's pleased with city staff's progress and their determination to save taxpayer dollars by building on land it already owns.

On the other, council members Macys, Kevin Kaminski and Kenny Reisman are critical of aspects of the process.

Reisman said Friday that at first brush, nothing about the Rita Valentine plan excites him.

And concerned about the backlash already stemming from the idea, Kaminski on Tuesday night said city staff should take its police chief “out of the real estate business.”

“It's not doing him any justice,” Kaminski said. “Unfortunately, Joel is in this spot. We need a buffer.”

He added that the new police station isn't a “self-serving mission from Joel Rae,” and the City Council should be “taking the bullets” on the plans, not city staff.

Reisman also said the planning for the new police station needs a new point person.

After he commended Rae on his recent Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Certification, Reisman said he'd rather see the chief focus more on public safety, not on the site plans for the new station.

Macys said Friday that she thinks the city needs to “go back to the starting point and start with a vision,” and the council needs to formally decide whether the city should limit its search for building sites only to land it owns.

“When we see them bringing a park back to us, we're not on the same page,” Macys said, adding she can't recall council giving the city direction to rule out purchasing any land for the project.

Years in the making

The new station highlights the city's six-year capital improvement plan and is more than two years in the making.

The station originally was part of a plan introduced in March 2012 to build a new public safety campus in west Steamboat supported by a new property tax.

After that plan was scrapped in the fall, the city proposed razing the defunct Iron Horse Inn to make way for a new station.

When council wasn't on board with that idea, the city started investigating several other properties before the sale of the current emergency services building on Yampa Street was scrapped in February.

Now, the city wants to start construction on the new 18,000-square-foot police station next year at an estimated cost of $8.9 million. The proposed plan calls for a 12,000-square-foot building and 6,000 square feet of garage and warehouse space.

“We need to draw closure to this within the next couple of months, because the city hasn't had a true police station in almost 40 years, and it is needed in this city flat out,” Kounovsky said Friday.

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

Public safety campus timeline

Comments

Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

“We need to draw closure to this within the next couple of months ..."

And there is further proof of the problem. First step is not to set false deadlines. The only part of the process to build a new police that has been consistent is false priorities. Started off with the priority to sell the public services building to change Yampa St. Now the main priorities appears to use city owned land and to make a quick decision. Or to have a different point person to take the bullets of criticism. Or requiring that any plan not have to ask the voters to approve issuing bonds.

How about actually sitting down and declaring the priorities of what a new station must have, location priorities and cost options?

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John Fielding 11 months, 4 weeks ago

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On the one hand, Scott's suggestion is a good method for analysis, some of which is included in the current process. It does seem though that we consider only one scenario at a time instead of getting them all out there side by side for comparison.

On the other hand, the discussion is largely limited to a vision of satisfying the totality of the needs. That is something that only a major project will be able to do. I suggest that an alternate focus be introduced, one which addresses only critical immediate needs by inexpensive methods. Would a couple of modular classroom type facilities serve for an interim solution? They could be placed adjacent to the existing building, sacrificing only a few parking places .

Some such interim measure could buy us time to work this out without a sense of urgency, which is the factor that will likely contribute to a less favorable decision.

As I have circulated my nominating petition and interviewed with constituents in district 1 these past several days, the topic of the police station has been near the top of most people's list. One thing that has been a common concern is that the process is being rushed, possibly driven by considerations other than those entirely appropriate to the issue. There was a great deal of consternation over the plan to sell the existing station. There was much thoughtful discussion about the desirability of keeping a police presence in the heart of downtown. And there was, most significantly, a universal reluctance among the citizens to commit to an expensive project at a time when most perceive an ongoing economic challenge.

Let's take our time with this, the need for closure is far less significant than the need for a well reasoned decision.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

John,

I agree that keeping the current station needs to be considered. There seems to be no requirement that storage be at the same location as the police station. City maintenance has garages and more room west of town. There is also a growing trend to not give employees whose main responsibility outside the office a dedicated office, but to have shared workstations. And generally to examine what could be located elsewhere without much harm, or maybe to everyone's advantage.

A general trend in law enforcement is to have neighborhood mini police stations So could a base area mini station improve law enforcement and reduce the need for a new police station?

Part of the process should be a public record of various options being considered and why the final proposal was preferred. Instead we have been given half baked final proposals.

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John St Pierre 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Kinda of amazing the disconnect that the city employee's have from the public at large.....

The thought process that went into "lets take a chunk of city park land and turn it into commercial property"

Next you know they will want to take the Transit Center complex and convert that... or maybe take some ball fields... even Little Toots park that a perfect location.....

But maybe they should look at the present City Hall property..... perfect location... and the city offices do not need the sophistication that the police dept needed if they relocated to Iron Horse

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John Fielding 11 months, 4 weeks ago

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I propose we try a different way of looking at the problem, just as an exercise in creative thinking.

What would we do if we could not afford a new police station?

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I would propose a sub-station at Dream Island. God knows Monica could use the help, riding herd on all the hooligans... trailers there are cheap... as long as we pay lot rent on time, there is no daily late fee... there's a gun store right there, for when times get bad... and it's halfway to the jail already. Sounds ideal to me.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

What would we do if we could not afford a new police station?

Well, that is just as silly because it also isn't true.

Analysis involves considering facts. It is hard to dispute that the SB police dept has a shortage of space. It clearly has less space than is typical of a dept of this size.

The question is what are the options and the associated costs of various possible solutions. For any new station there are cost and benefits to the chosen location and the projected lifespan of the new station.

Also, proper analysis includes opportunity costs and other non cash items. Thus, using a corner of Rita Valentine Park is not free. If that is a parcel available for development as a police station then it's value as a development parcel has to be considered. Surely, if it is an acceptable location for a police station then the parcel could be used for a BAP campus or other development.

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John Fielding 11 months, 4 weeks ago

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Is it not true? Of course we can afford it if we continue to defer maintenance, keep employees on short hours, keep taxes high or raise them and so on. But the point of the exercise is to imagine that we might spend our surplus on more mundane but past due infrastructure maintenance and have the voters refuse to bond for a large expenditure. In that case we could not afford it. What would we do then? We would very likely follow some of the suggestions you made at the beginning of this thread.

We would make do.

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ryan shaw 11 months, 4 weeks ago

As long as they create an open space equal to the one they are taking, I see nothing wrong with it. I don't approve of reducing the amount of Steamboats open space.

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Martha D Young 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Ryan, please look at the homes surrounding the proposed police station. Even if it weren't misusing dedicated open space, it would be a disconforming use of the land.

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david gibbs 11 months, 3 weeks ago

A new fire barn needs to be built on the west end of town and the police would have use of the entire Yampa Street building. This would be the most cost effective solution while maintaining the high visibility and central location of an essential city service.

It is strange that no one talked about the need for a new police station two years ago but the council president says we have not had a real one in forty years.???

This whole process has been a sad display of leadership.

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