Public Safety Director Joel Rae addresses the audience Tuesday night about the idea to build a new police station at Rita Valentine Park.

Photo by Scott Franz

Public Safety Director Joel Rae addresses the audience Tuesday night about the idea to build a new police station at Rita Valentine Park.

Plan to build police station at Rita Valentine Park faces barrage of criticism at 1st community meeting

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Reader poll

What do you think of the idea to build a police station on a corner of Rita Valentine Park?

  • I support it. If it's where the city thinks is the best and most cost-effective place to build, that's where it should go 11%
  • I oppose it. It's not an ideal place to build a police station 87%
  • I'm torn 2%

828 total votes.

Past Event

Police station public meeting

  • Thursday, September 5, 2013, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available

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— Members of a large crowd at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Tuesday night made it crystal clear they are big fans of their police department, but they strongly oppose an idea to build a new station on a small corner of Rita Valentine Park.

The consensus came when a community member in the audience asked who would welcome the new police headquarters in the neighborhood near the park, and only one person raised his hand.

“We probably have the information we need at this point,” City Manager Deb Hinsvark said after she was asked whether the city will continue pursuing the idea. “We hear you.”

She said the city's management team plans to make a decision about whether to proceed with the proposal at a Thursday morning planning meeting.

A second meeting to discuss the proposal will be held at 5 p.m. Sept. 5 in Centennial Hall.

Tuesday's meeting started with a presentation from Hinsvark, Planning Director Tyler Gibbs and Public Safety Director Joel Rae about the idea to potentially rezone 3 acres of open space at Rita Valentine Park to accommodate a police station near Hilltop Parkway and Mill Run Court.

Rae said city staff zeroed in on the location because it would be the most efficient location to build from a law enforcement perspective.

Specifically, it would allow a circle with a 2-mile radius drawn around the headquarters to include about 78 percent of all police calls taken in the third quarter of last year.

That compares to 57 percent of calls that would be included in the same circle drawn around a new station at Stock Bridge Transit Center, and 50 percent of calls if the station were near U.S. Highway 40 and Routt County Road 129.

“This makes a lot of sense from a police officer perspective,” Rae said about the centralized Rita Valentine location between downtown and Pine Grove Road.

City staff then showed how they would work to minimize the impact of the building by doing such things as using a sodded roof and shielding and down-casting lights to preserve the dark night sky.

Hinsvark also cited the history of the gifting of the park to the city in 1985 and how it originally was intended to be used for municipal purposes, not solely as a park.

In 1992, the parcel was designated to be used for park, open space and recreational purposes and renamed in 1996 in honor of former City Council member Rita Valentine.

Hinsvark took issue with claims from community members, including Don Valentine, the husband of Rita Valentine, that the land was donated to the city with the intention of always being used for open space.

But as speakers who were criticizing the idea of building a police station there got a large round of applause and other community members continued to ask about the potential of other building locations, it quickly became clear the vast majority of people in the audience never will embrace the idea.

They worried about noise and sirens in a residential area.

They questioned the station's potential impact on property values.

They said they like the park just the way it is with dog walkers and migrating wildlife.

“We have something in the middle of this town that a lot of towns in this country would love to have, which is some open space,” Don Valentine told the crowd. “It's no place for a school. It's no place for a skateboard park, and it's sure as heck not a place for a police station. Put it somewhere else.”

Valentine's statement earned the strongest applause of the night.

Facing several questions about other site possibilities, Rae and Hinsvark also outlined the lengthy vetting process of other sites and gave reasons why other land purchases aren't being pursued.

Hinsvark said the current TIC headquarters isn't on the list because it was offered only as an entire campus to the city at an unattainable cost of $14 million and would require extensive renovations.

Rae said Stock Bridge isn't the top site either because it significantly would impact what currently serves as a transportation hub and a park-and-ride.

And Rae said a parcel owned by the U.S. Forest Service above Yampa Valley Bank would “literally require an act of Congress” to be purchased or traded to the city and several years of waiting time.

City officials said they have known for several years that the city's police force needs a larger headquarters with adequate evidence storage space and security.

The force currently operates out of an office building on Yampa Street, but a new station wasn't realized in recent years because of limited capital funds.

While the Rita Valentine proposal faced a barrage of criticism, many audience members started their inquiries by thanking the police department and saying they do recognize the need for a new station.

“We're very fortunate to have an excellent police chief and wonderful police officers, but we need to invest in this as a community without poaching from our parks and open space,” Catherine Carson said.

Despite all the criticism, city staff kept the meeting cordial and maintained a sense of humor.

Hinsvark kicked off the evening by thanking the audience for keeping their pitchforks at home.

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

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Comments

John St Pierre 7 months, 4 weeks ago

why not move City Offices to the IronHorse buildings and build the new station on the city Hall site????? there is plenty of room and parking.......

3

Scott Wedel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Well, certainly a bunch of city staff should get out of their offices and meet the public. How anyone could think that giving up park land would go over well defies belief.

The exact expectations of the land when donated in 85 doesn't matter. If anyone has a picture of that area in 85 then it'd show a whole lot of open land. That area could have been developed as the home of city government with lots of surrounding commercial buildings. But what matters is that in 92 it was converted to a park and the surrounding area was zoned primarily residential.

The 2 mile circle is a comically inept use of distance when drive time is what matters. Hilltop is not a faster way to much of the town. Unless they are also planning to add a road to connect it to Anglers then it is not a quicker drive to the mountain area than coming from downtown.

I think any number of the sites along hwy 40 would be much better choices. The site behind Staples strikes me as very good potential site.

If City is building without bonds then City should be able to sell Iron Horse and transfer the secured asset behind the existing bonds to the new police station. And that would be most of the cash needed to purchase a better located vacant lot.

1

Cresean Sterne 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Thank you to the community members who showed a great support against any kind of development there. I belive that this is the right decision for everyone who values our open space since there is not much left.

0

walt jones 7 months, 4 weeks ago

"Hinsvark took issue with claims from community members, including Don Valentine, the husband of Rita Valentine, that the land was donated to the city with the intention of always being used for open space."

This manager is a real piece of work. So classy to say that in front of Don Valentine. She is all about making a name for herself at the expense of this town. Nothing will change until we get new Council members who can they apply heavy pressure to her and see she is not manager material. Scott Ford I sure hope you get elected.

1

Scott Wedel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Walt,

I don't blame her as much as I blame the city council. Where was the city council when giving guidance on potential sites? Given the abysmal lack of leadership by the city council then city staff is left to make their best guess on what is wanted.

I note not a single city council member has stood up and stated that there is an issue with city staff because city staff knew not to consider using a park for the police station. About all that this city council has said is "you figure it out" and that maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

1

walt jones 7 months, 4 weeks ago

True Scott but Deb was hand picked by this Council and none of her background nor decisions she has made since being in the position has been of leadership quality. At this point Council doesn't care that she is not a good fit since the election will change it all again (hopefully).

1

Scott Wedel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Walt,

A good city manager works under the direction of the city council and can understand and accept their priorities. It appears that Deb Hinsvark has barely been asked to do that job.

Some city managers have their opinions and priorities, and serve only as long as their is a city council with matching opinions. Deb Hinsvark has been operating in that mode and has not been very successful at coming up with acceptable plans for various issues.

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John Fielding 7 months, 4 weeks ago

.

The headline of this article is: "Hinsvark: We hear you".

It is worth notice than anyone who has much familiarity with the citizens of this community would have predicted this outraged reaction. Were any of them heard?

It is also worth notice that the one most familiar with the citizens position on matters regarding parks, the one our city manager must certainly have consulted, resigned his position as director of parks and rec 4 weeks ago. The reasons have not yet been made public. However if he was ordered to get behind this proposal and refused, it would not have gone well for him.

The job qualifications description for the nationwide search to replace Chris has not yet been released. It will presumably include something like 5 years experience as director of a similar department. But Chris did not have that when he rose from within to head of the department. What he did have was familiarity with the interests of the people of the town, and with the department. Any of our senior supervisors at parks are as well qualified as he was when he was promoted. Serving 5 years in a supervisory position in our department should be allowed to fulfill the 5 years director requirement.

But the quality that will determine the selection may well be the willingness to follow the direction of the city manager. Any potential candidate will have some awareness of what happened to the previous director, and present themselves accordingly if they want the job. That may also be why our senior supervisors might not apply.

A performance review of the city managers position will surely be among the business of the next council.

.

1

Scott Wedel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

John,

I suggest the clearer cut situation that should have been investigated by the city council was how Hinsvark forced Scott Ford out of YVDP or the City would cease to fund YVDP. Scott Ford was never shy expressing his opinions on various issues in his columns. No one ever questioned the validity or integrity of the data he provided to government when he supported a government action. But suddenly when he is critical of a government action then Hinsvark decides his data can no longer be trusted and he has to decide between silence on local issues or give up his job.

Anyone believe that if he supported selling the public services building to BAP that Hinsvark would have cited that his political views have compromised the public;s trust in YVDP's reports? That is just how clearly it was retribution for speaking publicly. And certainly many others doing business with the city got the message to not publicly disagree with the city manager.

1

Pat West 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I wonder if the Rita site is being used to produce action from the public. Nothing like a scandal to motivate the public, so why not attempt to put the police station in a park, then a expensive alternate site doesn't seem so bad. Everyone will accept a more expensive site rather than see our parks being used, so this eases us into that decision.

0

rhys jones 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Pat -- That plan is so devious, even I didn't think of it. Of course!! Rita was ludicrous from the get-go -- disregarding entirely the neighborhood it would be bespoiling, it was not just a half mile from any action, but a half mile from access to the action -- for the one or two cops manning the station, as most are on the street already. You're right, the suggestion is laughable, and just what I'd expect out of one of their executive sessions.

1

cindy constantine 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Am I the only one that thinks the police station should stay in the existing location--downtown--and we should be looking for a site to move the fire department? If the police could remodel and take over the entire public safety building that seems like the least expensive option. The danger on Yampa seems to me to be the large fire/rescue trucks trying to get to calls. Aren't most patrolmen out on patrol and not sitting at a desk waiting for an emergency call to come in where the firemen are ever ready to go out once a call is received? Why do we need a main station somewhere and satellite stations at the mountain and on the west side if our police force are already patrolling the city? Let's not forget that we have an estimated $10 million in storm sewer repairs that need to be made according to a council meeting months back. Spending OPM should not be the sexiest option but the one where we can stretch our $$ the farthest taking care of all infrastructure needs.

1

rhys jones 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Cindy -- Three sites immediately suggest themselves for a new fire station:

Iron Horse (we own it already) TIC and YVEA; lots of space at all (Eminent Domain, anyone? None are prime real estate, in their current or future uses)

I agree totally -- this is a time for fiscal CONSERVATISM.

1

Stuart Orzach 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Cindy- I don't know what the best solution is, but I like your thought process. When I see the City doing really dumb things like proposing a police station in a park, giving written warnings to "jaywalkers", or failing to provide proper crowd control during a bike race resulting in an accident that caused serious injury, I can't help but wonder who makes decisions in this City, whose agenda they are fulfilling, and what that agenda is.

1

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