Rob Douglas: City was 'hoist with its own petard'

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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.

For any resident who ever had a frustrating run-in with government bureaucracy, the collapse of the city of Steamboat Springs’ controversial plan to house the police department temporarily at the Iron Horse Inn, so the city could sell the downtown public safety building before finalizing a plan to construct a new police facility, is a delicious tale sweetened with irony.

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet would say, the city was “hoist with its own petard.”

After thousands of man-hours spent by city staff and the Steamboat Springs City Council “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” as Public Safety Director Joel Rae aptly put it at Tuesday’s council meeting, the seed that became the weed that strangled the city’s plan to use the Iron Horse Inn as a temporary home for the police department was planted just moments after the council initially approved the sale of the emergency services building to local outdoor product manufacturers Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger last December.

At the Dec. 18 council meeting, despite a petition containing 70 signatures opposing the sale of the building and a lengthy period of public comment consisting mostly of statements in opposition, a majority of the council approved the first of two required readings of an ordinance to sell the building to Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger. The vote was 5-2 with council members Cari Hermacinski and Walter Magill opposing the sale.

Less than 10 minutes later, in a blissful moment following the verbal jousting about the pending sale of the building, the council unanimously approved new building codes “regulating the erection, construction, enlargement, alteration, repair, moving, removal, demolition, conversion, occupancy, equipment, use, height, area and maintenance of all buildings and structures.” This was a routine approval of a change to regulations that local, state and federal officials do all the time with little understanding of the real-world consequences of their vote.

But in this case, the first victim caught in the snare of the new building codes was, irony of ironies, the city itself.

At the Dec. 18 meeting, city staff told the council that it would cost $113,000 to transform the Iron Horse Inn into a temporary police facility. But in a memorandum prepared for this week’s meeting, Rae informed the council that the cost had skyrocketed because of the new building code.

“The maintenance costs and remodel costs for repurposing the Iron Horse Inn for temporary police quarters encountered unanticipated obstacles. In order to move anywhere we would have to bring any building up to an ‘Essential Building’ standard per the recently adopted 2009 building code, floor loads would have to be increased from 40 lbs/sf to 75 lbs/sf. In order to accomplish this at the Iron Horse, it would be necessary to place (12) helical piers throughout the crawl space and also add floor joists to the second floor. Costs to bring the Iron Horse building up to code and remodel are estimated at nearly $1,000,000.”

At this point, anyone who has watched their dream project become a nightmare after going through the government regulatory meat grinder will be forgiven if they smirk and utter a “serves ’em right” under their breath.

Faced with the reality that the new building code had closed out any viable option for selling the emergency services building before constructing a new police headquarters, the council unanimously killed the sale to Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger — or anyone else — for the foreseeable future. But there finally may be a silver lining in the cloud of controversy that has been hanging over Citizens Hall.

Instead of trying to push through a deal favoring Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger while pretending the sale of the emergency services building will “revitalize” Yampa Street, the focus can return to the public safety infrastructure needs of the city. The city now can determine the best location and schedule for the construction of those facilities in the context of other core city requirements and the limitations of a still challenging economy.

In so doing, the horse finally will be in front of the cart.

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

Comments

Clay Ogden 1 year, 2 months ago

Dagonit ... I find myelf agreeing with Mr. Douglas again ... who'd have thought. Next thing ya know Rebublicans and Democrates will agree on tax reform; dogs and cats will live together in harmony and our city officials will stop gambling with my money.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 2 months ago

Adopted a code without thinking of the implications.... while it bit them in their ..... I guess htey will now understand the implicaitons on the rest of the structures in the City this will impact....... Maybe at some point they city council needs to take a break and sit down and discuss who, how and what of all the "input" they have received from city staff.. in the "real" business world.... this type of fiasco would have resulted in a lot pink slips & Dept. restructuring......

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, cities are supposed to adopt the new buildings codes. The codes are updated to deal with problems found elsewhere. So if city didn't adopt codes then property insurance companies are insuring new buildings with known issues.

The "essential building" codes are because essential buildings have failed elsewhere.

If this issue was not found and city council had proceeded then the petition to stop the sale almost certainly would have proceeded. The petition was concerned about many aspects of the discounted rushed sale. The petition did not foresee such severe problems with the interim police station plan. The petition was more concerned with going forward with so many loose ends (location, costs, financing). Also, that selling a building at a discount is a terrible way to promote economic development.

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Amy Harris 1 year, 2 months ago

Rob, you couldn't have said it better. Poetic justice here.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

"Serves 'em right"??? Not even close to how I would describe it.

A complete waste of taxpayers money.

A disregard for taxpayers wishes. A great example of gubbamint regulations adding exponential costs to building projects. (and everything else it touches)

And most troubling, it all appears way too much like an attempt to use gubbamint to do personal favors, help specific individuals, etc, at taxpayers' expense.

Good riddance to the whole notion.

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john bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

ha, the next election cannot come soon enough. but then, you think they really listened to the people?na , no way.just as bad as the idiot-in-chiefs cabinet. lets hula anyway.

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Essam Welch 1 year, 2 months ago

Justice, poetic or not, has not yet been served. Our interim city manager is still in her position and we have the next city council election to look forward to!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

John,

I think it is clear that city council did not listen to the public. If they were listening to the public then they would killed the sale before learning they didn't have a viable plan for the interim police station.

It is like the public telling the city council that the roads are very icy and it is unsafe to be driving. So then city council goes out anyway, but immediately slides off the road. And then comes back and tells the public, that they decided not to go driving tonight! The good news is the city council were forced to stop driving before having a nasty, possibly fatal crash. But it was only after ignoring the public and attempting to proceed despite the warnings.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 2 months ago

Existing strctures may be thrown into chaos with the new requirements. How can one sell a building that needs extensive retrofit? This could put many more dreams underwater.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

"Essential" buildings refer to buildings that provide essential public services such as fire and police. The justification is that a natural disaster is bad enough, but it is much worse when the emergency services are crippled due to losing their buildings.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

I have said it before and I'll say it again:

Anyone who thinks taxes are only being raised on the "rich" is an absolute fool.

Furthermore, anyone who thinks regulations do not translate DIRECTLY into costs, thereby making them a defacto tax, is also a fool.

Where is the blessing/advantage in having pristine air and water if you can't afford food, shelter, or clothing for your family because the regulations that led to the clean water and air forced prices skyward?

Why implement building codes that lead to structures being built to last CENTURIES when development trends will see those structures demolished in just decades?

How does it benefit society to pay enormous sums of $$$$$ for top-of-the-line, ridiculously expensive, excessively code oriented structures when there are going to be removed for a Wal-Mart or highway, or police station in 20 years anyway? Or when the technology will make those building techniques obsolete in 25 years anyway? Seems stupid to me.

However, while stupid, there IS an explaination: Municipalities get sales tax from construction materials! Do they benefit from codes that allow your house to be built with just 100 yards of concrete and $50,000 worth of lumber or from codes that force you to pour 200 yards of concrete and use $80,000 worth of lumber?

Furthermore, if the tax man comes out and asseses your home for $1 million when it cost $800,000 to build he's looking way more like a criminal than if he asseses your home at $1 million and it took $1,250,000 to actually build.

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Bob Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

Mark, why the heck do you always have a

in your posts? Are you using some seriously dated hardware/software, out do you manually put that crap in there?

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Why do I have a WHAT in my posts? In your post above i'm reading the following: "...why do you have a__ in your post...? I'm not sure what you mean because the subject of your question is not there, but my software/hardware is probably as seriously outdated as I am... pre-historic.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Mark,

I don't see in your posts or in Bob Smith's post any sort of weird crap.

Well, except for your writing!

Shame on me for not resisting that easy of a setup.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Thanks Scott. I think he might be talking about the way I seperate paragraphs, but I don't see it appearing on the final post so I'm not sure. If you're out there Bob, please clarify.

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Melanie Turek 1 year, 2 months ago

They show up on my Android device, but not on my PC, just FYI...

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Melanie, What exactly shows up? And how can I make it NOT show up? Yes, I'm that computer illiterate... and proud of it.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Mark,

It is only partly what you are doing because the paper's blog software takes what is written and converts it to HTML for browsers to read.

I looked at the html source of this page. Looks to me that the one thing different about your formatting is that somehow you convince this site that the first lint of your paragraphs is often a blank line and so this site creates HTML which not all browsers display properly.

Not really your fault since it is the site that is converting your formatting into html junk.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Mark --

Your posts look fine with Linux/Firefox, and Windows XP using either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. So I'd say if somebody's toy can't properly decipher the Pilot's output, the typewriter adapter you use can hardly be blamed, right?

I've experienced problems with the way the Pilot's new blog software "parsed" (analyzed) my submissions, replacing asterisks with blocks, dropping formfeeds (newlines) and completely dropping replies to replies to replies (one more deep?) or making the reader click to see it... so I have reverted to old-school for my input: I leave the formatting options above alone, and only reply to the top level or two, even then cautious because it may drop my formfeeds.

Bear in mind, we are talking structure, not content. (cheap dig)

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Computer literates will note that "formfeeds" above should read "linefeeds." My bad.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Rhys,

The major browsers all spend a lot of effort on compatibility. A PC browser install with all sorts of stuff to correct specific sites bad html. But the browser on an Android or other nonPC devices doesn't have the room to deal with all the noncompliant junk and is more willing to display somebody's messed up site strictly according to standards.

And thus Mark Hartless does not display well on all devices. Just another example of the leftwing elitist media beating down on real Americans. Or something like that.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott -- Computer expert too now, eh? Why am I not surprised? But if you think all major browsers make an effort at compatibility, you are greatly mistaken. Gates' Microsoft Internet Explorer does things one way, everybody else -- Opera, Firefox, Chrome, Safari -- EVERYBODY -- does things another way. I've got to have special meta codes in my header.php's for graphics to display properly on Explorer, and more accommodating code for IE in my .css style sheets. Those are the ONLY adjustments I have to make for Gates' can of worms; fortunately Internet standards and protocols are dictated by Unix.

So browser compatibility is a joke. Gates does his own thing. I see nothing unusual in the source code, in any of the three browsers. Like I said above: If your toy won't show Mark's posts properly, that is not his fault.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Lest it be misconstrued that I am dissing the Android -- which runs Linux -- I must hasten to qualify that it does NOT include the whole X Window system, so in that respect Scott is correct.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, that's all just about as clear as mud.

Thanks everyone.

Since I seem to have somewhat been vindicated on this particular matter I will continue to spout off in the same manner which has heretofore won me oh so many new friends. I'll just keep right on using the same formatting/text/ whatever and just hope for the best.

Cheers,

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

"Mark Hartless does not display well on all devices".

Something else on which we agree, Scott... I've ALWAYS said that!

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

In fact, you should see how I "display" on an EKG.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Rhys You ignorance overwhelms you. It was my work as a computer programmer that allowed me to purchase the apartment building in Oak Creek. SunMic told us we were the first to write a production application with 5,000+ active lightweight threads for Solaris.

Historically, sites have been more concerned with what looks okay with current versions of browsers. So when browsers become more standards compliant then they broke the appearance of sites. Thus, instead of releasing a new browser version which is more standards compliant that is also notable for how many previous sites are now messed up, they put in hooks to "fix" the browser to not mess up. Typically, the browser ships with css files to correct the look of major sites that relied upon mistaken expectations of how it should be rendered according to standards.

It is true that IE and firefox, etc made no effort to comply to each other. That is because Firefox, Opera, etc were making an effort to comply to official web standards. While IE was more focused on displaying what Microsoft's web tools created. But now even IE complies to standards (while also having the hooks to display MS's old html as intended).

But there are already enough challenges for a browser on a smart phone or other device that those vendors are less willing to correct bad html from various sites.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey Rhys, I finally saw a Nuggets game on ESPN or TBN or something. They are a really exciting team! Saw that it took Boston triple overtime into beat them in Boston! They still need something, hopefully it is just maturity, to contend with OKC but maybe the Glory Days are only a year or two from returning. I am so sad that the Lakers are in the toliet! Could not happen to a nicer bunch of guys or a nicer state! Keep warm. It is 68 as I type this and supposed to be 70 tomorrow.

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Bob Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

Oh sorry mark. I thought you were trying to be cute like John fielding and his periods. And yes i couldn't help trolling a little with the guntards comments..guilty as charged. Seriously though....if the government wants you gone i don't care how man ar15's you've got....makes no difference, so the whole argument is bunk.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Jerry -- Hi!! Yeah the Nuggets sure look good. Might make some noise yet this year.

Scott -- Are you high? Browsers don't "ship with" .css files. Applications use them in "include" files. I suspect your claimed credentials. What kind of programming did you do?

Of course Bill's IE eventually became "standards-compliant" (to a degree) it had to if he wanted to play Unix' Internet game.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Does anyone think that if Uncle Scam answered truthfully to every question on the background check that it could buy a gun???

I seriously doubt it.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 2 months ago

Rhys Since I wrote the earlier remark, they have dropped 3 in a row. The ups and downs of immaturity, I think.

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rhys jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Jerry -- They had 4 of their key guys out for the one of those I really saw, and still only lost by one. They got within 7 last night, after being down by 20. No Gallo, no McGee. They just went ten straight, before the road hiccup.

Oh ye of little faith.

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