Rob Douglas: ‘That’s not the way it’s done’

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— In December, the city of Steamboat Springs held an open house in the bays of the fire station located in the emergency services building on Yampa Street to promote the city’s plan to sell the building to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger as the first step toward constructing new police and fire stations at undetermined locations.

During that community forum, then-Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark was asked by a concerned citizen why the city was rushing the sale and why the city hadn’t sought the services of a real estate professional to market the facility to ensure the city would get the best price possible.

Hinsvark dismissed the question with a curt, “That’s not the way it’s done.”

Fortunately, even though Hinsvark and a majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council ignored a veritable who’s who of longtime Steamboat residents who came before the council that same month to oppose the sale of the emergency services building, the sale imploded because Hinsvark’s ill-conceived plan to temporarily house the police department at the Iron Horse Inn didn’t comply with the city’s building code.

On Tuesday, the city held an open house at the Steamboat Springs Community Center to promote a plan to construct a new police station on three acres of Rita Valentine Park.

This time, through the collective voice of more than 100 Steamboat residents, it was Hinsvark who was effectively and resoundingly told, “That’s not the way it’s done.”

The reaction to Hinsvark’s decision to pursue constructing an 18,000-square-foot police facility in a residential neighborhood, by slicing away a piece of a long-established park that has withstood previous repurposing attempts of far less magnitude, was so predictable it calls into question Hinsvark’s understanding of the character and fabric of Steamboat.

It also calls into question Hinsvark’s political acumen when it comes to the City Council she serves.

The odds that the current council — or any council in the foreseeable future — would approve a ballot measure asking the electorate to appropriate a portion of Rita Valentine Park for a police station are between zero and none.

Given this latest blunder in a series of missteps that have cascaded from a public policy that was flawed from the start — attempting to sell the emergency services building at a bargain-basement price to stimulate “economic development” and “revitalization” on Yampa Street — it’s time for the council to revoke the latitude it handed Hinsvark to “leave no stone unturned” while searching for possible locations for new police headquarters.

In short, it’s time for the council to take control of the process before Hinsvark damages the credibility of the council and city management even further. Otherwise, the next proposal might be met with actual pitchforks instead of the figurative ones on display Tuesday.

It’s also time — in fact, long past time — for the council to specifically direct Hinsvark to stop using Public Safety Director Joel Rae as the point person for the location and construction of new police and fire stations.

As police chief, Rae should be seen as impartial on matters of public import while maintaining the trust and confidence he has earned over years of exemplary service to the city as a police officer, police chief and public safety director. Common sense dictates that the chief law enforcement officer of Steamboat, or any other community, should not be the public face for the site selection and construction of the largest and most expensive publicly funded facility to be built in recent history.

That truism should have been all the more apparent to Hinsvark as the project has been highly controversial from the beginning. In fact, more than once — including at the past council meeting — several council members have indicated they are uncomfortable with Rae walking point on the constantly morphing police station proposal.

If there’s an upside to a process that has been marred from conception because of the council’s mistaken belief that the city should drive private economic development, it’s that the most appropriate location to construct a new police headquarters is finally under consideration.

Where is that location?

The current emergency services building on Yampa Street.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

Neil O'Keeffe 1 year, 2 months ago

Why so mean spirited, does it make you feel important?

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 2 months ago

Funny stuff! Trying to figure how my saying I don't care what Hinsvark said is mean spirited but as you are apparently the expert I I stand here admonished.

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john bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

for shame , Dan , don't you know how impotent Neil is? carp , my r quit working........~;0)

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

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Right on Rob!

The preference to improve on and remain at the present location is supported (off the record) at the highest levels of the police department.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

There are a few vacant lots of sufficient size along hwy between town and the mountain with an assessed value of about $1.5 million. For a very good site that is hardly impractical.

City could sell Iron Horse and raise most of the money to purchase a proper site.

If City was considering things like sod roofs if building at RVP then they could also save money on the building design putting it on a normal commercial lot.

And estimated construction costs of $500 per square foot hardly suggests this is a low frills project. Make much of the flooring as coated concrete and worry about putting in the nice touches later.

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Martha D Young 1 year, 2 months ago

Thank you, Rob. And I second Scott's suggestions. What happened at the meeting Tues. night ought to inform our City Council members that they need to rein in their "management team" and let Chief Rae do his job as a police chief. I wonder what it cost us taxpayers for the management team to prepare the site plans and elevations for the Rita Valentine Park site. That money could have been used to "vet" other sites, including the rebuilding of the existing station.

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Scott Glynn 1 year, 2 months ago

I am a little surprised more of you have not seen this as what it really is. By initiating a campaign to locate the station on a loved and heavily used piece of open space, the city garnered exactly the reaction it wanted. Now when they propose something that is less obtrusive to our collective psyche, we will all say "O.k.. that's better, let's do that instead". They have played both ends to the middle to get what they really want. Classic salesmanship.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Oh please. This is obviously Jain dialectic -- "an object has infinite modes of existence and qualities and, as such, they cannot be completely perceived in all its aspects and manifestations...Only the Kevalis—the omniscient beings—can comprehend the object in all its aspects and manifestations, and that all others are capable of knowing only a part of it. Consequently, no one view can claim to represent the absolute truth."

although it smacks of Marxist dialectic:

"My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e. the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea’, he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea’. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought."

Then again, some question the vaildity if dialectics in general --

"It is generally thought dialectics has become central to "Continental" philosophy, while it plays no part in "Anglo-American" philosophy. In other words, on the continent of Europe, dialectics has entered intellectual culture as what might be called a legitimate part of thought and philosophy, whereas in America and Britain, the dialectic plays no discernible part in the intellectual culture, which instead tends toward positivism"

(wiki)

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

It reads like english, but I can't understand a word you're saying...

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Classic indeed, but I am still reluctant to be so cynical as to believe that is the case here. It seems to me it is truly just a misapprehension of the community mind. Steamboat is determinedly unconventional, willing to be impractical as a part of that identity. It is one of the characteristics that makes this a wonderful, is sometimes difficult, place to live.

Many in our city leadership are very much aware of this endearing trait. Let them be consulted in helping move this process forward.

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Bret Marx 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott Glynn, I thought I was the only one who saw that! And Dan your first comment is right on too.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

No need or benefit from thinking RVP site was put out there to fail. There was no one making that suggestion so there was no need to reveal the flaws in that idea by taking it seriously. The RVP proposal is not going to affect the process of finding an acceptable location.

Though, I suppose, an argument could be made that RVP was used to lock in the price and size of the police building. So then buying an alternative site is viewed as adding that amount to the project cost. If they had first proposed buying a parcel and an 18,000 sq ft police station then there would have been more of a tendency to look at how the costs of the police station could be reduced to keep the project within budget.

By proposing RVP then city government has said that only way to stay within budget is with free park land. And so the public and city council is willing to see buying the lot as an added cost that puts the project over budget. And no one looks at why it costs $500 per sq ft for the police station or whether that could be reduced.

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Anita Hawkins 1 year, 2 months ago

The city owns over 30 acres including several commercial lots on Critter Court (near the animal shelter). Have they considered those properties?

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