Hikers descend on a path at Rita Valentine Park near Longview Circle and Hilltop Parkway. The city of Steamboat Springs was eying a 3-acre parcel of the park directly across the street from Mill Run Court as the potential site of a new police station.

Photo by Scott Franz

Hikers descend on a path at Rita Valentine Park near Longview Circle and Hilltop Parkway. The city of Steamboat Springs was eying a 3-acre parcel of the park directly across the street from Mill Run Court as the potential site of a new police station.

City of Steamboat Springs no longer wants to consider building new police station at Rita Valentine Park

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— 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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Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

So if it so clear now that overhead power lines and needing a public vote make this a bad choice then how did city proceed so far with it include coming up with architectural drawings and have a surveyor mark the building footprint?

I have not seen two vacant lots with stakes and balloons to give the public an idea of what the building would look like there.

City staff got way ahead of themselves preparing and pushing the RVP site while other potential sites are such vague possibilities that those locations still have not been released to the public.

Why is it that city staff repeatedly has screwed up the process for a new police station? Not just the merits of the idea proved to be wrong, but the process of how to select a new site has been a disaster twice.

City doesn't have to put a new police station on hold, but it does need to stop acting as if it is time to make a final decision. We haven't even had a public discussion on the need to be between town and the mountain. Patrol officers are not sitting in the police station waiting for an emergency call. And future growth in SB will be to the west so not that long into the life of the new police station then it might be slightly advantageous to be west of downtown.

Thus, the city needs to reset the process and start from the beginning. I think step 1 of showing there is a need for a new police has been taken. Step 2 of what is wanted at what cost was declared by the city and the police dept without public input, discussion or endorsement by the city council. So we need to return to step 2.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

There is a truly telling remark in this article. Consider the following:

Hermacinski says this process is damaging the credibility of the city staff and the City Council.

Macys says she also has lost confidence in the process.

Hinsvark says it's been an absolutely perfect process.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Other points in the article raise some important questions. The article states "several" alternate sites are expected to be presented. Previous articles specified two other sites. Has the number been increased?

The article indicates City Council has not been told what other sites are being considered. If they asked, would they be told? Should they ask?

Will the planning for each of these sites be as fully developed as the RV Park proposal? That is not an insignificant expenditure of time and money. Would it not be prudent to have at least a cursory review of these sites before investing in the planning?

If it is truly sensitive from a real estate acquisition standpoint, that is due cause for an executive session. But the Council should not be kept unaware, especially considering the process to date.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 2 months ago

What will be the next fiasco led by this city manager?

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, that is a challenge. I'd have to guess that it will be related to the police station as that has been such a prolific source of fiascoes. I think the possible sites for the police station will be second guessed. Cost of being between town and the mountain will be questioned since that preference was never publicly justified as being worth spending money. And then the need to accept the current design of the police station will be questioned because that was also a preference never publicly justified as being worth spending that much money. Somehow they have survived for 40 years without a garage and now they need 6,000 sq ft? Is that really a need or a preference?

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Cresean Sterne 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott, I do like the idea of a substation on the mountain..It realy makes sense in so many ways. The amount of money saved with a smaller sattelite station and gas use from town to the mountain would be quite substantial. The response time would also increase quite a bit. It seems to me that this avenue should be persued further. We keep hearing about this place and that place along with a couple places they have not revieled to the community yet. We havent realy heard any pros or cons about a sub station which seems like one of the best ideas that the community may get behind and should require further discussion. As far as RVP, it wasnt just about the neighborhood in that area as they posted. It was more about the community as a whole voicing there opinion..Finally some common sense prevailed.. :-)

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John St Pierre 1 year, 2 months ago

"the city will ask the Steamboat Springs City Council"Emphasis Strong if this quote is correct ... then it typifies in a few words what the real problem is.... A "city Government" and a "city Council" WHO IS IN CHARGE??? the populace elected council members to RUN the city on THEIR behalf.... when did that responsibility get passed on without a vote of the citizens????

This is really really twisted... !!!!!

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

The City Council is a part time body of citizen-representatives whose role has been to set policy and give direction to the city manager, who runs the city. The chain of responsibility is long and difficult to use well.

This is why I propose a new position be created. I have called it the consumer advocate for citizens or the councils ombudsman. The function is to have an institutionalized forum to get input from the citizens to their government and back, to collect and organize the various suggestions and complaints into a coherent body of data that can be used to adjust the processes to better suit the needs of the citizens. It would also publicize the more significant actions of the city government that are currently unreported and otherwise serve as a hub of information and communication.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

I have not heard from George Krawzoff in a while, but he comes to mind as suited to the position.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Speaking of common sense:

There was a thread earlier this week that discussed creation of a third party, moderate in its nature. I propose it be called the "Common Sense" party.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 2 months ago

There is a new party in it's infancy called "The Coffee Party". Their pledge reads like this::

"As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process."

Google it.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

I would seriously consider Chris Wilson, formerly of the rec dept. He had many years in a high profile position that constantly dealt with people that wanted more and yet wasn't constantly creating enemies.

I like Mr Krawzoff, but I think he lacks the political skills to deal with a city council.

I could even considering Cari H. Not because I agree with her politically, but because she is highly prepared and first asks pragmatic questions. I think she could follow city council priorities, but it would be well researched options and not half baked ideas.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

All good suggestions for the position. Any contributions to the assignment of responsibilities?

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

John,

I'd suggest the that responsibilities of the city management office remain the same and how the responsibilities are divided is a decision for the city manager.

Not that Hinsvark has to be fired. Her problem is that too often she presents only one solution and it is poorly researched or not thought out. There is no particular reason she cannot learn to present multiple options that are all well researched. Though, I'd have hoped that she had learned this lesson from fiasco of selling the public services building to BAP and yet she came out with public meetings for RVP with architectural drawings and marking the location in the park while even just the location of alternative locations have yet to be announced!!

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

scott, I have not suggested she be fired, only relieved of the police station assignment. It may be that she conducts the routine duties of the position well enough. This particular task is very different. However the people skills exhibited in this as well as the single-mindedness must give cause to wonder. Hopefully if her management style needs modification that can be done, but it is often not the case.

But I think you missed the point of my question. I was asking if you had any suggestions about the directions to be given to the Citizens Advocate. The most important to me is to assure that all suggestions and complaints are heard, recorded into a useful form, and some action taken. I don't expect every issue will be resolved exactly as the citizen would wish, but there will be a response by someone whose only responsibility is to address those concerns.

At this point there is no comprehensive record of the input from the people regarding their difficulties in dealing with city government. To have one would be instructive.

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Pat West 1 year, 2 months ago

I disagree that this position is needed, we already have elected council members that can listen to our requests and act in our behalf.
John, if you are elected maybe you can work to provide a better forum for citizen ideas, but if you feel that your elected council member is not listening and representing your ideas and values, simply voting them out in favor of a candidate that does is how iI thought our system worked.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

I think the new police station is an essential part of the city manager job. It is not unlike proposing employee salary increases in that it cannot just be an idea, but has to researched that the budget can handle it for future years as well. Which is what Jon Roberts revealed was wrong with what she proposed as finance director.

The fundamental problem with the police station is that it has yet to follow any organized process. After proposing selling the current building was when meetings were held to show that the current station is inadequate. It has yet to demonstrate why the new police needs to be the particular size that they have chosen. Nor have they demonstrated why it has to be between town and the mountain.

It wasn't too long ago that the county tried spending lots of money to improve the courthouse in downtown. It was argued that moving the courthouse would wipe out downtown businesses that would apparently move closer to the courthouse. Well, no lawyers moved their offices to be near the courthouse when it was moved west of town.

Government needs to take the time to explain a proposal and let the public call BS on poorly justified ideas.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Pat, it is true that the council can listen and act, but it certainly is not always done, in fact the number of issues brought to council members that do receive any meaningful action might be just a small fraction. We don't actually know because there is not a formal process of logging such requests and any actions that are taken. Much of it is retained only for a short time in human memory.

There is also a prevailing perception that an individual will not really be listened to, hence a great many conditions that ought to be reported are not. Finally, there is often a fear of retribution by the powers that be against the individual (or business or city employee) raising the issue.

What the Citizens Advocate would be doing is something we can hardly expect part time, poorly paid council members to do. But it is what we would have them do if they were full time and adequately compensated. Most importantly it would give the citizens a place to go where they know they would be heard and their concern would not just be trivialized and forgotten.

I have heard the response before, "we really can't take time to deal with this, we have so many more important things to do". In fact I agree, part time elected officials need to remain focused on major policy issues. But the fact is that a lot of citizens are unhappy with their government. That does not have to be the case, should not be the case, and we can do something about it.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott, I agree the city manager should be involved to some extent in identifying infrastructure needs and ways to address them. However, with a project of this magnitude, the skill set required is likely to have to be contracted for. We have involved architects and engineers, but we have left the public relations responsibility in house. That is a mistake in an issue that is likely to be controversial. As a result we have damaged confidence in the council and the staff.

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