Stuart Roberts: Is council asleep?

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Steamboat Springs’ City Manager Deb Hinsvark and Police Chief Joel Rae have held two community meetings the past two weeks to explain to the community why they think that 3 acres of Rita Valentine Park is the ideal location for the new $8.9 million Steamboat Springs Police Department headquarters.

In addition to spending $50,000 of taxpayer money on the studies and plans for these two meetings, our city staff is willing to call a required special citywide election to ask all residents of Steamboat Springs to approve the removal of these 3 acres from Rita Valentine Park. The cost of a mail-in ballot, similar to the Steamboat 700 vote, would be an additional $38,000 of taxpayer money.

The Steamboat Springs City Council appears to be allowing these excessive expenses with very little objection. Council member Scott Myller said at the council meeting Sept. 3 that he saw no problem continuing to consider the 3-acre RVP parcel, because it already was compromised by being close to the overhead power lines in that area of the park.

During the past 10 years, Steamboat residents have repeatedly responded in numerous surveys that preservation of open space is the No. 1 concern of residents. Another concern of residents is fiscal responsibility of city government. It appears obvious to anyone at these recent meetings that the city manager and the police chief have very little regard for preservation of open space or fiscal responsibility. Why does a community the size of Steamboat Springs need an $8.9 million police headquarters? That issue has never been addressed. The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is building a much larger restaurant and lodge at Four Points this summer, and the cost of that is $4 million. The proposed police department, with its own onsite workout facility, will be palatial.

Is it possible that City Council is sound asleep while Deb and Joel are chasing their wildest dreams? That is what is apparent to anyone who has attended either of these recent meetings regarding the proposed police station.

Sincerely,

Stuart Roberts

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Martha D Young 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you, Stuart. When Hinsvark said, "We hear you" at the first meeting about the new police station proposed for Rita Valentine Park, she was obviously only listening to herself and city staff. So far only two members of council have openly supported considering R.V. Park as a potential site for the new cop shop. Let's hope reason prevails among the other members. And thank you for informing us of the costs of this process. Outrageous.

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jerry carlton 11 months, 2 weeks ago

City manager is out of control on many fronts. Police chief has served long and capably and since city manager is his boss, his job might not be safe he he disagreed with city manager. I seem to remember a long serving, capable, parks and rec. manager who is no longer with us.

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Cresean Sterne 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I fear that after talking to people about this that there are many that have no idea this is being proposed..I am ready to go down to 3rd st and hold signs against this and city council..Any takers??

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walt jones 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Exactly Jerry. I have been trying to open peoples eyes about her since she was interim city manager. She has no business running this City with her irrational, out of control, classless behavior.

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Brian Smith 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I would rather see the city spend money on moving those ugly power lines.

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John Fielding 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Now I'm really annoyed, Chief Joel Rae is getting more blame for this fiasco after council explicitly said they wanted him to get out of the confrontations. As quoted in the Pilot (Steamboat Springs City Council has mixed views of idea to build police station on Rita Valentine Park), it left no doubt that was the direction by the council president. However, as I mentioned in a parallel thread yesterday, council has no authority to give direction to city staff, including the police chief. Only the city manager may do so, and her direction can come only from the council president. Perhaps the statement by council president was not worded correctly to be construed as an order to Hinsvark to remove Rae from the point man position, but it is clear that was the intent. Why was it not done?

In my opinion we are also doing a disservice to our city manager by making her conduct the process of site and building plan reviews. Perhaps we are saving a little money by using city staff for it, but maybe not. Even if we are there is resentment being generated that will impact the relationship between the citizens and their government.

This process should be entirely in the hands of contracted professionals. I expect such highly experienced consultants also would have had preliminary presentations that would have eliminated RV Park early on. In any case, objections to the process or proposals would not have affected those who do the daily work of managing our municipal affairs.

As it is we have lost our esteemed Parks director for reasons not disclosed but coincidental to this process, and we are likely to lose our city manager as well. The candidates for that replacement, (as well as Parks director) must view with some trepidation the compromised positions they will have to be put in. That will certainly have many of the better qualified individuals decline to apply.

As another council member said at that same meeting, we need to go back to the starting point, and start with a vision. When we do so let us also protect all our valuable city employees from becoming embroiled in the controversy, and so diverting their efforts from the jobs they were hired to do.

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John Fielding 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's make sure we don't lose our Police Chief over this. And can we offer Chris Wilson his job back?

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Bill Dalzell 11 months, 2 weeks ago

John, do you have information that others don't. It is my understanding that this was mostly Joel Rae's decision. Also, as far as I can tell Chris Wilson was terminated for numerous long standing issues. Many on city staff could enlighten you. Why do you want to give him his job back?

It also seems to me that people are confusing fact with speculation. For instance, it seems to me, that most to all of city council is against Rita Valentine as a potential site. Enough with the off with their heads. I also don't think the 8.9 million figure is set in stone.

I am fundamentally against the police station in Rita Valentine, but I also think that some of the articles seemed to insinuate that Rita Valentine donated the land, which was not the case. I too am against forfeiting open space, but lets be real, its a tough decision and there will be an argument, to anywhere it goes and any cost. The same thing happened with the library, which (have your own opinion) to me is a great asset.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 2 weeks ago

it is not simply open space. It is a dedicated park.

It is not the same as the library expansion as that was always the library's property and they simply built on what was a nicely landscaped area part of the library.

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Bill Dalzell 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree with all you said Scott. I just see some similarities in public dissent, between the two projects. My point was that city funded projects of any sort, seem to be met with very vocal opponents, no matter what it is. There seems to be public resentment to using open space for a police station ( I agree), but there also seemed to be a lot of bloggers that also thought the purchase of Emerald Mountain was a bad idea. It seems very ironic to me.

Like I said I do not think Rita Valentine is the right spot, and I think the preservation of open space is extremely important. That being said, do you or anyone else here, know the original intent of the land use for Rita Valentine. I thought I heard, that its original intended use had a broad range of possibilities, even municipal use. Not stating fact here, just wondering.

Like I said, there always seems to be a lot of loose facts, conjecture and finger pointing here.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill,

Sure there can opposition to anything. But the expected level of opposition changes when it is not merely "open space" but a dedicated park. People put time into making it a park and then again worked to keep it as a natural condition open space park. Their work was not to preserve it as a vacant lot waiting for government buildings. If the City wanted to preserve part of it as vacant land for future development then city should not have dedicated that part as a park. We could have had the discussion then that this is not a suitable site for city buildings and still ending up dedicating the whole parcel as a park.

That is not comparable to a library expansion onto park like landscaping of the library's property. The library's property was always an expected location for expanding the library.

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John Fielding 11 months, 2 weeks ago

My information comes from unofficial views expressed by persons well connected with the parks department organization. There was no mention of unsatisfactory performance, but that would likely have been mentioned if it was so in the opinion of my sources. So in whose opinion was there dissatisfaction? There has not been an executive session for personnel review in a year, according to the council president, so it likely was not a council position that he was not doing as they would have him do. Parks commission? City Manager? There is not a long list to consider. I think the citizens have a right to receive more information on these matters. We try to stay well informed and engaged, but when information is withheld that is difficult.

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Bill Dalzell 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Hey John, I have just heard different things than you I guess. I think there a lot of things, if said, would open the city up for litigation. In short, the best approach to firing anyone, is to be tight lipped, especially when its a public position. This happens all the time and I think there were some misunderstanding's in the release of other public officials as well. Even stating what are to be perceived as facts can be a tremendous liability.

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jerry carlton 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill A different comparison for you. Remember how Gary Wall was in constant conflict with the county commissioners? This city manager seems to be in constant conflict with a significant portion of the citizens. Going to sell the downtown building for a pittance, Parks and Rec. director who worked under many city managers quits, continues to push for taking part of Rita Valentine even though it creates a firestorm. Any similiarties between this manager and Gary Wall? Wrong people in the wrong job at the wrong time?

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I would add the city manager forcing Yampa Valley Data Partners to fire Scott Ford because he expressed personal opinions on the sale of the existing building for a pittance that did not agree with the city's plans.

For years he had written on issues and there was not a problem until he opposed the city manager's plans which suddenly caused the city manager to question the integrity of his work for YVDP.

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Bill Dalzell 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Are you sure she was the only one responsible for Chris Wilson's resignation?

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John Fielding 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Chris was not terminated as your first comment indicated, he resigned as you correctly note here. there is a big difference. There was certainly some dissatisfaction with his performance among some of the citizens who had dealings with the Parks department. Some instances have been shared with me and in fact I have been asked to use them as examples of why we need a consumers advocate. But the issues I know of were not reported, and even if they had been they would not rise to the level of offense to threaten his position. Maybe other more influential citizens crossed swords with him and made complaints, but in a small and nosy town like this such things get heard of.

The way it was summarized in my conversations was essentially that "he was made an offer he couldn't refuse, and he did." The reason he was put on the spot may never be publicly acknowledged, but there is only one official that could do so. Because of the timing of the push on Rita Valentine Park the coincidence is too strong to ignore unless other issues are made public.

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jerry carlton 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott Wedel How could i have forgotten that one? Oh, I know old age. Thanks for the addition.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Jerry,

Well, the list is long enough that it is hard to keep straight.

What is most concerning is the lack of concern by the city council. Instead of following up on city manager gaffes and asking how she is going so far astray while following city council directions, the city council has just been accepting it.

And this sort of not questioning the questionable goes back to the notice of default regarding the base area bonds. Despite the bank protesting that the city made misleading and false statements when the bonds were issued that led to negotiations on how to correct that problem, that somehow city was surprised of notice of default and city council members made ridiculous comments that they had never heard of a notice of default while still making payments. But all the mistakes were swept under the table by the city agreeing to commit more assets to properly secure the debt.

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jerry carlton 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I am sure Scott Ford will bring some common sense to city council and if John Fielding is elected, I think he will also bring some common sense to the table so maybe there is some hope for fiscal responsibility and a new city manager.

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