Steamboat Springs Some potential interference from power lines, a special election and weeks of sharp criticism from the community have led the city of Steamboat Springs to decide not to pursue building a new police station at Rita Valentine Park.
“Rather than keep the whole neighborhood in suspense for another month, we want to give them some relief,” City Manager Deb Hinsvark said Thursday. “This plan was causing angst. We don't want to carry that forward.”
On Thursday, she emailed Scott Owens, a neighbor of the park and one of the fiercest critics of the plan, to let him know the city will ask the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night to take the Rita Valentine proposal off the table.
She said the city has other building sites it considers to be more viable.
The city's management team had gone as far as to have an engineer stake out the potential building footprint and float some green balloons to give nearby residents an idea of where the roofline would be. The city also showed neighbors early conceptual drawings of what a station in the small corner of the park would look like.
But the 3-acre site off Hilltop Parkway started to become a less attractive location in the city's eyes after it received nearly unanimous criticism at the two well-attended community meetings to discuss it.
Hinsvark said Rita Valentine also is not as viable as other sites because a special election that would be required to rezone part of the park for the police station would delay its construction, and the power lines that run near the site could interfere with networking in a new police facility.
Several other alternative sites for a police station are expected to be considered Oct. 15, but the only one so far identified to the public and the City Council is a possible remodel of the existing public safety campus on Yampa Street.
Council members on Thursday offered some different views of how the city should proceed with the process of building a new police station.
Some members said they are so dismayed by how the city so far has handled the process that they want to stop it.
“It's clear to me the entire idea of a police station should be shelved indefinitely,” council member Cari Hermacinski said. “It went from literally less than a year ago being on our parked projects list to now it seems to be the prime focus of our city manager and police chief. I honestly think this process is damaging the credibility of the city staff and the City Council so much that it's going to make it difficult for us to get anything else accomplished in any other realm. It's a mess.”
Saying Rita Valentine was "a bad plan on Day One," council member Sonja Macys said she was “delighted” the city has listened to the public and wants to table the Rita Valentine plan.
But she said she also has lost confidence in the process.
“I don't think we have the leadership to execute the project regardless,” she said.
Other council members say the city can learn from recent missteps and should not lose sight of the fact new headquarters for its police and firefighters are desperately needed.
Late last month, City Council President Bart Kounovsky said he was pleased with the city's process of pursuing the new station, and it needs to draw closure to the pursuit in the next few months.
And council member Kenny Reisman said Thursday that he's glad city staff will talk about why they pursued Rita Valentine along with what they learned from the process.
“To me, we're still very much in need of a new (public safety campus), and that doesn't go away just because this Rita Valentine site" is going to come off the table, Reisman said. “I don't want this process to stop. A new public safety facility is a need, not a want in this community.”
Hinsvark said she appreciates the diverse views of council members during what has been a long and democratic process of building the new station.
She added she remains hopeful the city and the council will be able to select a site for the station that works for the entire community.
"Part of the process is doing everything we need to do to make sure the site will work for the community," she said. "While the process has been long and there's been a lot of discussion and we've looked at a lot of places, it's been an absolutely perfect process. When we do build (the new police station), we'll all feel comfortable it's the right place. That's my goal."
Public safety campus timeline
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.
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