Steamboat Springs The revived plan to build a new police station in Steamboat Springs cleared an important hurdle Tuesday night when the Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously to proclaim such a facility is a need, not a want.
The vote, which came at the end of a workshop on the future space needs of the police department, will allow the city to continue working on the project and have it be weighed this budget cycle along with other capital-improvement projects.
“We've never had a public safety building,” council member Kevin Kaminski said before the vote as he noted the current police headquarters at 840 Yampa St. originally wasn't designed to be a police station. “This would be the first time we've ever had one.”
The Steamboat Springs Police Department has inhabited the building since 1982, and some of the offices inside were used as the City Council chambers until 2000.
Tuesday's workshop marked the first public discussion about a new police headquarters since February, when the city's plans to relocate its emergency services out of downtown fell apart.
The stall came after more than a year of planning.
Although the council agreed Tuesday night with Public Safety Director Joel Rae that a new, more efficient facility is needed, the project still must clear more hurdles and votes in the weeks to come.
Council members again alluded to other potentially pressing capital needs, such as upgrades to the city's stormwater system, as expenditures they will have to weigh a new police station against.
And council member Cari Hermacinski wanted to know how much has been spent on the planning process for a new station before any more funds are committed to it.
“This isn't policy what we're doing right now. This is figuring out where the break room is located,” she said as architects walked the council through the potential sizing of a new police station. “As far as I know, we didn't have a vote yet on building a new police station.”
City officials said much of the planning for a new police station has been funded by a $25,000 Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant that was matched fully by the city.
Rae said he plans at the council's May 21 meeting to bring a full cost estimate of the work done so far as well as a projection of how much it will cost to take the next steps of developing schematics for a station and vetting its potential locations.
If the council moves to proceed with the project, the city would enter the design phase and price out the project.
But first, the body still must agree on the potential size of the building.
Building for growth
The city has enlisted the help of three architects for the preliminary stages of the project.
Jim McClaren, who led the workshop Tuesday night, has worked on more than 300 police station projects across the country.
He presented the results of a new space-needs study for Steamboat's police department that was conducted recently with input from all 38 employees who work in the current building.
The new study recommended the construction of a 25,649-square-foot building that would accommodate 25 years of potential population growth in Routt County.
The current police headquarters has 6,600 square feet of space on the top floor and 1,400 square feet of garage space.
A new facility is proposed to have a firing range, detention rooms, more interview rooms, a separate secure entry and much more room for evidence storage, among other things.
Rae said the size could be adjusted based on council feedback.
“In order for us to find a site that works and in order for us to determine the cost, the first step in this process was to determine the size of the building,” Rae said.
Some council members were skeptical of the size of the building being proposed and wanted the city to look at the size of newer police facilities in other mountain resort communities for comparison.
They also wanted the city to reach out to the county to see if it could be involved in the project and share any new space.
Plans to build new fire and police headquarters in Steamboat came to a sudden halt in February after a proposed sale of the existing headquarters to outdoor retailers BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger fell through.
Rae said last week that the scrapping of the sale has taken a lot of pressure off his department and that the city essentially has gone back to "square one" on the project.
The city originally was looking into building a 15,000-square-foot station along with a new fire station.
Costs for the projects varied but were estimated to need about $8 million from the city's reserves just before the sale of the existing downtown headquarters was canceled.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com