An alternative building plan being considered by the city would either remodel the current police headquarters downtown or replace it with a new station on the lot.

Photo by Scott Franz

An alternative building plan being considered by the city would either remodel the current police headquarters downtown or replace it with a new station on the lot.

Steamboat City Council to have choice of 4 building sites for new police station at October meeting

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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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— When it meets Oct. 15, the Steamboat Springs City Council will have four plans to consider for building a new police station here.

City officials say the council and the community will help determine the best path forward.

Although the option to build the new station on a small corner of Rita Valentine Park received much opposition from a large audience Tuesday night at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, the city's management team has decided to keep the idea in contention but also give council three other viable options.

They include remodeling or reconstructing the existing public safety campus on Yampa Street and building a new fire station west of downtown or revisiting two building sites that previously have been considered.

The two additional sites haven't been publicly identified by the city.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said Thursday that the goal for the October meeting is to present council a variety of plans that would give the city's police force a far more efficient headquarters while also staying within a reasonable budget on which council will sign off.

“I know the group we met with (Tuesday) is going to be a little uncomfortable we're letting (the Rita Valentine proposal) move forward, but the fact is that we were asked by council to turn over every stone, and we owe it to them to bring them whatever project we can that doesn't have a land cost to it,” Hinsvark said.

The small, 3-acre corner of the 35-acre Rita Valentine Park is being vetted because it would provide a centralized location for the police station at the intersection of Hilltop Parkway and Mill Run Court, and it would carry no land cost.

The land was donated to the city in 1985 to be used for municipal purposes, and it designated as a park and open space in 1992.

The plan to build there would require approval from the City Council and city voters.

It was strongly opposed by the community members who showed up for the first of two community meetings to discuss the proposal Tuesday night, but most community members said they still recognize the need for a new station.

A second community meeting on the Rita Valentine plan is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 5 at Centennial Hall.

As one alternative, the city also is looking into keeping its police force downtown.

Public Safety Director Joel Rae said the plan to stay on Yampa Street is in its infancy, but the most cost-effective way to do it would be to construct a new building on what currently is the site's lower parking lot.

“We would be able to put basically a 9,800-square-foot footprint where our lower parking lot is on Eighth Street and on the Yampa Street side,” he said.

This plan would allow the police force to remain in the existing headquarters until the new station is built, avoiding substantial costs for a temporary relocation

The current station then could be demolished and converted into parking.

Rae said cost savings would be important in that scenario because the city would lose the ability to sell 840 Yampa St. and use the proceeds on the new building.

The city estimates that to remodel the existing building wouldn't be as cost effective because much of the building, including its electrical system, would have to be replaced and upgraded to adhere to building code.

The new police station headlines the city's proposed capital improvement program.

In a draft version presented to council last month, the city budgeted $8.9 million for the project.

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

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Comments

John Fielding 11 months ago

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OK, I need some help here. Will someone please explain the logic of withholding the information about other "preferred sites". Will we wait over 6 weeks from now and only learn about it when it is placed before council less than 3 weeks before the election?

I suggest the second meeting for the Rita Valentine Park proposal be used to disclose these other sites, if not sooner. We are not likely to have any new useful information gained if last Tuesday's presentation is simply repeated. There could even be significant resentment manifested if it appears the proposal is still being actively promoted.

This gives me an impression of a regard for the citizens of this community that is not particularly flattering, that we must be carefully lead, given information in carefully controlled doses. What might be the adverse reaction if we are kept current on the process, advised of everything that is going into the hopper (and of what is being left out).

I think the term "transparency" is beginning to be over-used. Some new adjectives would be helpful. but whatever you call it, we need more of it in our city government.

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Tyler Goodman 11 months ago

Why isn't City management releasing the other two additional locations? If we're going to get this decision right then we need to know all of the alternatives. The public has been pretty clear the Rita Valentine location is out of the question and the downtown location is less than ideal.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

In a proposal to remodel the existing building, one factor that must be considered is whether the new requirements for a disaster resistant structure must be implemented. That may lead to a discussion of whether we are hurting ourselves in an effort to prevent being hurt. Many communities have had their emergency services buildings rendered inoperable by disasters but made do well enough by contingency planning. Its not like there are dangerous criminals there who could escape in a disaster.

Another thing that should be considered is a budget cap. We are approaching this from a "what will it cost" basis. Suppose we use the "we have just this much money, what can we do with it" scenario. Or a longer term timeline for accomplishing our goals, with priorities clearly identified.

There is a perfectly good structure there. We ought to be very reluctant to consider demolition.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

The only people being kept in the dark is the public.

The property owners or their agents have been contacted regarding availability and the price.

The other two sites, by process of elimination, pretty much have to be vacant land. There is no shortage of vacant commercial land in this city so the city is in a strong negotiating position. The property owners face the likelihood of yet more years of the land being vacant. Parcels big enough for this sort of building if privately developed would fall under big box zoning regulations.

Also, there is no point for the city council to consider this in October. If they are contemplating making this decision days before the election then they are out of their minds.

And John, I think most have agreed that the current building is not "perfectly good". It is pretty clearly much smaller than is common for a police dept of this size. I think it can be considered tolerable and it can be used until a new police station is built.

I also suggest that you look into the building costs and see how that compares to what it has cost others for a police station recently. The estimate is $500 per square foot including the garage and storage space. If garage and storage space can be built for a generous $100 per square foot then they are projecting the police station itself to cost about $700 per square foot. That seems awfully high to me.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

"Perfectly good" refers to the structure. "Pretty good" would be my description of it as a building for expanded police facility. In my opinion "pretty good" is good enough. We can spend ten million dollars trying for "ideal", but in a few years it will be just "pretty good" anyway.

One of the problems is trying too hard for some world class facility, when we can get by quite well for quite a while with much less. And we may very well decide in ten years or so that a mountain village substation is the answer to in increased need, and/or one west of town. Trying to meet the anticipated need for decades hence requires a skill at prophecy that is not often exhibited.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

John,

You could go a long ways to proving yourself as a potential city council member if you could find other perfectly good police stations built on a budget for far less than $500 per sq ft. Also, if you look at their designs for the police station and figure out the luxuries making it worldwide notable edifice to local egoism as compared to an affordable effective building.

Nothing wrong with concrete floors. It is more environmentally friendly to not put anything more on the concrete floor than to even use environmentally correct flooring on top of the concrete.

I get the creeps whenever I walk into Centennial Hall because the amount of taxpayer money that went into luxuries of that building is just sickening. Let's building a police station which the taxpayers can be proud of because it shows the the priorities of the city is in the right place. That our city does not have megalomania and instead cares about where taxpayer dollars are spent.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

Thank you Scott for your suggestion. My own view is that it is best to offer the voters a choice based on abilities one has demonstrated through long experience. Conducting the sort of research you recommend is something I would prefer to have done by someone expert in that practice. However, even an effort by one who does this frequently though not necessarily for a living could be useful. You have clearly demonstrated some proficiency in this area, I encourage you to take the initiative.

I was in a contemplative mood as I waited to pick up my boy from football practice at the middle school yesterday. The end of summer signs were all about, both in the backdrop of forest and meadow and in the activity at the school, the cycle of the seasons progressing. The beauty of the natural environment was a frame around the beauty of the tawny brick edifice that framed the human pageant, the expression of one of the most cherished and essential traditions of human kind, the passing on of knowledge accumulated by previous generations to those who will shape the future.

The building itself was a reflection of its significance. built to last, highly functional, but without a great deal of embellishment, representing an emphasis on what happens within, clearly a substantial commitment of the communities resources in a manner that assures a high return on investment.

And so it is often found in public and institutional architecture that the values of the community are reflected in the design. The esteem for the activity within is written on the face of the building, in columns and domes, in spires and stained glass.

We hold our police force in high regard, assign to them a great responsibility fro protecting us and keeping the peace, give them permission to interrupt our "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness", even to the authorization to use deadly force.

There will be a natural tendency to design a facility that expresses that sentiment. If we do choose to commit to an investment that is intended to endure for generations it should do so. Thus it is even more important that such a commitment be made with due regard and prudence.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

And so the question is do we invest in something that is meant to make a statement of the permanence of our commitment to the institution. If so, do we do so at this point in time?

Alternatively, do we invest in the more mundane but critical need for a little more space, better equipment?

The existing facility represents the highest expression of regard from the era in which it was built. There is no disrespect in keeping it with necessary modifications for function.

Lets take our time with this decision.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

I would be happy with a police station built by Costco. An extremely utilitarian design with features such as many skylight with a lighting system that turns off lights when enough light is coming through the skylights.

I think luxuries in a government office building is a statement of the government having so much wealth that it can have delusions of grandeur. A private sector building can easily justify luxuries because it is serving a market. Part of picking the hotel and enjoying the stay is often the architecture of the building.

A police station is primarily an utilitarian building. A police station is not a public space intended as a hub of economic activity.

I am pretty sure the current public services building was built by YVEA and used by YVEA until they outgrew it and built their current building.

It should be relatively easy to call the city manager's office and ask how they have come up with a cost of $8.9M for the 18,000 sq ft police station It would show the sort of initiative desired in a city council member to find out how much other cities have paid for recently built police stations.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

OK Scott, I took a quick look, but don't take this as a real analysis. The first two are the closest I found by size of town.

Brecksville Ohio. construction budget 4 to 7 million. The town has about 13,000 people with an interstate highway and some other major highways, many other large towns nearby. They propose a new station across from their town hall, already bought the land over a few years,. They have revenues of $25 million (60% from income tax) and a police budget of 4 million. I could not find the size of the proposed facility, but it would include a jail., The budget spread has many citizens quite upset.

Palmer, in central Massachusetts on the interstate is looking at $500 per sf (15,000 sf for 7.5 million). Its a pretty but not ostentatious typical New English brick faced building on land they own. Quite a bit of debate regarding its affordability, due to value or budget I'm not sure. Their population is 12,000, annual revenues are 25 million, half from a category called GEN LTD account group, police budget is 1.6 million but may have some overlap from other budget items. Their total budget is 33 million, so it looks like they are in the red. They are contracting for a Mohegan Nation casino that is supposed to bring them 16 million annually. (They'll need more police if that happens).

Brunswick Maine, population about 22,000, is in the middle of the coast, on i 295 near Augusta. Their station is expected to cost $250 per sf (20,000 sf for 5 million). They have a very diverse and strong business base, and collect 53 million per year, mostly property tax. Their police budget is 7 million annually.

A quick look at our own budget for our 13,000 residents shows 26 million,mostly sales tax, of which near 7 million is for public safety

The way I would have done this when I was a construction project manager is to go to one of the major estimating programs for this type of construction. A quick look there showed the national average for police station costs to be about 200 per sf for your Costco version, simple decorative concrete block, similar to our new Sheriffs facility. The price goes up from there as you add brick or stone siding and other niceties but the core is functional at the base number.

This still does not answer the question of whether the proposed station is right for us right now, but it does give some perspective. Most interesting to me in this exercise was looking at other towns annual reports to see how they collect and spend the taxpayers dollars.

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Pat West 11 months ago

I vote to have John lead the site committee for the new police station. iI wonder if a sunsetted property tax could be considered for this expense?

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Gaylan Hellyer 11 months ago

Still think the area between RR tracks and HWY 40 in conjuntion with the Emerald Park access is the best loaction. Between town and the mountian, good highway access and already in a commercial area.

Even though the city owns the Iron Horse, think of the added conjestion to the already loaded Hwy 40 & Downhill Drive intersection.

And Yampa Street should be turned into more of a destination with "CENTER " street parking and Round About's at Little Toots and 5th Street so people can easily turn around. Might also help alleviate traffic hazards at 5th and Yampa between pedestrians, bikes and vehicles.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

Way too many cars on Yampa last night. Some have suggested another auto bridge at the west end, providing better access to Howelsen parking areas, and another pedestrian bridge as well. Parking is one of the biggest challenges, and there is lots of it available just across the river.

As far as the police issue, the largest single fraction of their business appears to happen in the entertainment district, helping get the drunks to behave, to guide them back to their hotels, or to go to jail and rehab if necessary. There should be a facility right there where that service can be accommodated, including several holding cells and maybe even a place that folks could just voluntarily sit and sober up for a couple of hours after the bars close. (And a restroom, to reduce the public urination offenses).

In the future, a main station near the new Emerald access could be good, but very expensive. If we take our time, do it wisely and well, we could afford it over a long term commitment. Lets just be very sure that is what would really serve our needs best.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

It is a myth to think that the police are constantly arresting people. SB police did a total of 500 or so arrests last year. That is less than one per officer per week. The county jail is the perfect place to bring those that have been arrested. They have all of the facilities including the trained personnel.

It has been shown many times that downtown employees and business owners use a lot of downtown parking. That if employees and business owners didn't park downtown then there would be plenty of parking for their customers. The Mainstreet group should come up with a plan that their members agree to follow and if it needs help from the city then arrange that.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

I spent more time this morning reviewing the details of the city budget, pretty dry reading. Of the near 7 million for public safety, a little under half is for the police department. Within that there is a line item for maintenance workers and another for operating expenses. Actual costs per personnel are not given, only totals. Similarly in operating expenses, fine detail does not make it into the budget, how much was spent for gasoline vs cleaning snow off the steps and parking lots is not apparent. My objective was to try to get an idea of facility costs, but there are so many overlaps between departments one really needs a navigator to find some things out, if in fact they can be found within that document at all.

The point of course is to see what it costs to use the existing facility. I have an intimate familiarity with the costs of using older resources, half my house dates from the depression, my truck has nearly a half million miles on it, many of my tools could qualify as antiques. There are higher costs for maintenance than if I had brand new stuff, but much of what I have is paid for since long ago.

I would be happy to have brand new tools, a new pickup truck, modern fixtures and appliances in my home. But I get along reasonably well with fixing up my old stuff and spending the savings on ski passes for my boys, new used equipment at the ski swap, new used bicycles and skateboards, camping trips, cultural events and other support for the well being of my family. We each must set our priorities.

I believe our public safety people have similar views and abilities. Much as they would like brand new and luxurious, they would set their priorities toward making improved use of what they have and direct the savings to support for their core mission of public service

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jerry carlton 11 months ago

Pat West No new taxes! If I can not afford something on my current income, I do not buy it. Government should operate the same way!

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