Police station vetting process extended as Steamboat Springs City Council reaffirms new facility is a priority

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night officially ruled out Rita Valentine Park as a potential site for a police station and gave city staff a couple of months to vet some alternative locations.

The city now has until December to come back to council with other options for the station.

The new timeline allows for the two new council members who are sworn in after the November election to have a say in the project.

“This is a very large project for our city. We don't see projects of this size very often,” City Manager Deb Hinsvark said before the council voted unanimously to table the park idea at the city's request. “We are learning as we go, and we are fortunate we have the consultants we need to evaluate sites. I would say we made some mistakes, and we've learned some lessons in this process.”

Some council members said the process has been a “rocky road” at times.

After it had another discussion about how much of a need a new police station is, the council then voted, 4-2, to continue embarking on the project.

Council President Bart Kounovsky noted the body voted unanimously in May that the station was a need.

He was joined by members Walter Magill, Kenny Reisman and Scott Myller in saying the city should push on.

“If you take a walk through that (current police) building, it's clear as day what the need is,” Reisman said.

That sentiment was shared by a majority of the 50 or so people who toured the police station in the spring and noted how cramped and inefficient it was.

But not all council members see the project as urgent or pressing.

Cari Hermacinski and Sonja Macys wanted to pause the process.

“We should take a breath and think about this money we're spending and figure out if the community is asking us to spend it,” Hermacinski said. “In our last budget hearing in October, a new police station wasn't on the six-year (capital improvement program). It was on the secondary parked projects list.”

Although Rita Valentine Park never will become a police station, there was some early talk Tuesday night from some council members of having Steamboat's Parks and Recreation Commission revisit a conceptual plan for Rita Valentine that was tabled in 2009 after some blowback from neighbors.

“I think we overreacted,” council member Walter Magill said about the tabling of the plans that included such ideas for the park as a disc golf course and a dog park. “It's still a park that's misunderstood by the community.”

He said the current master planning process for Emerald Mountain Park is revealing a number of parks and recreation needs the community has that could be satisfied at Rita Valentine.

Things like a disc golf course or dog park cannot be realized at Emerald Mountain because of its designation as open space.

But Magill said he thinks Rita Valentine could potentially take those on.

“I think we should do other things in that park,” he said.

The plan could be discussed at a Parks and Recreation Commission 2014 goal-setting meeting scheduled for next month.

The City Council's next meeting is a full-day budget hearing Oct. 1 in Centennial Hall.

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 ago

So most of the city council has been completely inept on proposing possible police stations so many times that they wish to use that incompetence to redesign RVP? Maybe they should try getting one thing right before expanding their horizons on spreading their incompetence.

Just because they identified a new police station in May as a priority that doesn't mean it is correct to proceed on a messed up, poorly explained and secretive process of choosing a station design and a location.

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John St Pierre 1 year ago

"The city now has until December to come back to council with other options for the station."

Is this misspeak or have I missed the something... I thought the Council was the city!!!!!!! And if not .....what and when did we get 2 governments and when did the council give up their elected duties to govern???

Should it not be .... Council to city EMPLOYEE"S do some research and present what you find>>>>>??????

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walt jones 1 year ago

And does anyone know what was the result of "fearless city manager" Deb Hinsvark's review during executive session? I hope not praise.

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jerry carlton 1 year ago

Parks and Rec job in yesterdays paper. Pay is pretty good. Also an ad for Airport manager which pays well. What happened to Airport Manager? Managers are falling like the leaves will soon be.

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walt jones 1 year ago

Jerry,

Maybe because since Deb H. has been doing staff reviews she is probably running all of them off??

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John Fielding 1 year ago

There is no good reason I can think of to keep the citizens in the dark regarding what locations and other options are being considered. (Unless you call it a good reason that the public cannot give any input and thus slow things down, make more work for the planners).

We are going to be presented with the results of expensive, time consuming study of options. I believe our money is continuing to be spent wastefully by this process, just as it was wasted by pursuing the RV Park proposal so far when just a little public input earlier could have avoided the debacle that ensued.

I call for the Pilot to take the lead in bringing the information to the public, as is their role in the relationship between the people and their government. I offer a few of the questions that should be asked, and asked again and again until someone who knows something will answer.

Are the council members aware of the locations being considered? If so when were they told? If not, did they authorize the information being kept secret form them and the public? If not whose idea was it to keep it secret? What reasons are given for that decision?

Is there only one new station plan being considered for the various new sites. or are there more modest alternatives, i.e. starting small, growing later?

Is there more than one option for use of the existing site under consideration?

How much is budgeted for the vetting process? How much staff time is also being used?

How much has been spent to date? How much of it has produced something we can use?

We concerned citizens await the reporting on the Pilot's efforts to bring this to light, including how many dead ends they reach if information is not forthcoming.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

This thread has fallen off the active list without a comment in reply from the Pilot staff.

Lisa Schlichtman, as the new editor of our beloved little newspaper, I appeal to you directly. Make a stand as the representative of the fourth estate, let its importance be manifested in bringing to light that which would be concealed. I urge you to make some reply to this plea, let your readers know where you stand. Another editorial is called for, but first, please, some short note in this forum and maybe a news story on how the Pilot will continue its investigation. Thank you, John Fielding

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John Fielding 12 months ago

From an email received by by me from the new Pilot editor Lisa Schlichtman:

"The date has been set for the 2013 Election Forum, sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Steamboat Board of Realtors, the Routt County Democratic Party and the Routt County Republican Party. The event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17 at The Steamboat Grand. A meet and greet with the candidates will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. and the forum begins at 6 p.m. I wanted to be sure you all marked your calendar for this important event. The format will be the same as in years past, and I will be sending out additional information as our planning progresses."

Let us have a discussion of the justification for keeping this process secret from the public. Let the Pilot's major spread the Sunday prior be the basis for it. Make it worthy of a Pulitzer nomination. At all events, earn the respect of your readers.

Respectfully submitted, John Fielding

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John Fielding 12 months ago

Note to readers: The above pleas to the Pilot have been condensed into a letter to the editor, submitted this evening. It will be instructive to see whether it makes it into the print edition, and so does not remain privy only to those who frequent this forum. John Fielding

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Scott Franz 12 months ago

John,

I would be happy to talk about any aspect of our coverage. I can be reached at 871-4210.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

Thank you Scott, but this is not for or about me, it is for everyone out there who thinks this process has become seriously flawed resulting in a big waste of money and damage to the relationship between the citizens and the government created by them for them. I have now spoken to scores of people about this and every one is offended, angry or disgusted. Again I say, as everyone knows, it is the responsibility of the press to pursue the facts and report them to the public. It is the role for which they have been honored and even protected from legal challenges to confidentiality of sources.

I spoke to a council member today who does not know the locations under consideration, maybe could find out but is not inclined to, thinks the process has been a waste, that we are back where we started, and will not vote for any budget item for the project, saying it would be pretty stupid when there isn't even a plan. I did not press for more answers as there was an apparent mutual reluctance to get into it too much since we were at our kids activity.

There are at least a couple of others who feel that way, but the process continues largely unsupervised. Can it be that the council does not feel they can control the process more tightly, that they are stuck with an awkward system and cannot improve it? What is the explanation of how this is still going on along a course that has been demonstrated to be wasteful and damaging.

Steamboat Pilot, (Lisa, Scott,) please get in there and give us the answers, including who says they can't talk about it and who says they won't.

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Martha D Young 12 months ago

“I think we overreacted,” council member Walter Magill said about the tabling of the plans that included such ideas for the park as a disc golf course and a dog park. “It's still a park that's misunderstood by the community.” I think Walter Magill misunderstand the intentions of the community. The absurd plan to develop RVP went down in flames, as it should have. The citizens of Steamboat Springs are capable of understanding more than Magill thinks we are.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

John,

City staff is allowed to develop plans without disclosing the in progress work.

It is just a foolish way of proceeding with a new police station. After previous messed up proposals with no public input presented by city staff, what is the one thing not to do? Continue along without public input. What are they doing? Continuing without public input.

I looked through a lot of city council meeting info to find the start of the wording of the ballot measure. There were a lot of letters from the public regarding the police station. I didn't see one in support. Some asked serious questions about the size and cost of the proposed police station. Some showed a complete lack of trust in the city. A bunch of people were quite upset that the city had sent a surveyor out there to mark the boundaries of the proposed building prior to public meetings. They thought that indicated the city was proceeding prior to getting public input.

It should be clear to anyone reading those letters that the public is not ready to pick a final site. And city staff by keeping things secret is making sure that doesn't change.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

"Because we are allowed to"? Of course, that's the answer to why the process is being kept secret.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

There is a mentality in many bureaucracies that the citizen is the adversary. Of course in the event that laws are broken, the perp is, but those who would be the victims are not. In some enforcers eyes everyone is a potential perp. Similarly, concerned citizens slow down the process, are regarded as a pain. Some are arrested for interfering with an officer, obstructing justice.

Fortunately for us, most of our city employees have the opposite point of view, that the citizen is the customer who they dedicate themselves to the service of. But the few who do not trust us foul it up for everyone.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

But staff need to be able to think about something and make suggestions, critiques and changes without everything becoming public at the end of each day.

The real problem is not city staff developing proposals, but the existing city council members that say bring us completed proposals. City Council could have directed staff to give a detailed explanation of why it is projected to cost $500 per sq ft to build a police station, of why a 12,000 sq ft building plus a 6,000 sq ft garage is needed and why it needs more than 2 acres. All of those are major changes from the existing situation and are not obvious to the public. And I searched through a lot of city council meeting materials for the wording on the ballot measure and never saw any of the above police station questions answered. I did see letters from the public asking those questions.

The idea that we are close to picking a final site and starting construction is so wrong that it doesn't matter what the sites are that are revealed in October. The city will have done none of the work to justify why those sites or why that building. Thus, I expect another round of public disbelief at the city's proposals.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

You are right of course Scott, but that is why someone needs to be paying attention. As it is we keep saying "that is a horrible idea, go try again" after tens of thousands of dollars are spent. We don't need to get a daily report, but the opposite is what is happening, no information, not even a list of locations, no word if there is more than one new building option, nor if different approaches are considered for the existing site.

The basic information should not be withheld. A reporter should get an update at least a couple of times a month, and staff should watch this forum and letters to council for reactions. We the people are regarded as needing to be lead, have the thinking done for us. The disparaging and disingenuous remarks we have heard are evidence enough that some in our government have lost all sense of propriety. The disastrous results of continuing on without public input are absolutely appalling.

This wasteful and damaging process needs to be stopped, but how? Without the efforts of the proper agent for this sort of inquiry it is nearly impossible. Letters from the public to council are clearly of no avail. But reactions to newspaper articles and editorials can be powerful. The city might release the information just to get the press to stop asking questions and printing the names and responses of those who give evasive or unhelpful answers.

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Pat West 12 months ago

John, really, city staff should watch this forum? IMHO this forum while entertaining, is not the proper avenue to direct public policy. This forum is an undirected, unmoderated crap shoot of crazy ideas, backstabbing,, and half thought out ideas. If a citizen of Steamboat cares a out an issue, and wants their opinion to count, letters, email, or public comments at a city council meeting is the only way to let our local government know how you feel. Posting to the forum here is not a guarantee that anyone who can change policy is receiving you message, and I hope that if elected you don't think that you can run your seat from this forum, if that's the case, you've lost my support. Just looking at the most viewed stories shows that even the largest viewed story only gets 2500 views, in a town of 10,000, many of which are repeat viewers, looking to the rhetoric on the forum for a chuckle, or for support for their outrageous ideas. The last thing we need our elected officials to do is read this forum and act on these statements, we need them to be apart of the community and learn firsthand the cares and opinions of the citizens, like I see Walter, and Scott doing at the bike races and other events I participate in. They have my support because I know they hold the same values as I, and in their shoes, I would struggle with the decisions that need to be made, and probably make the same choices they do.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

Of course you're right Pat, this forum has a lot of dross among the nuggets of gold, but I am confident the readers can tell the difference. There is no reason to expect the content from the same contributor will differ much if submitted here than in a letter to council. So all must be regarded with an analytical eye.

This is the new town square, where those who wish to share opinions stand on the stump. As in days of old, most pass by without listening, many pay some attention, a few are moved to offer their own view. To decline to participate here would deprive many of the opportunity to be included in the presentations. There was a reporter at the Kiwanis candidate forum last week but no article was published about the positions advocated.

I too see Walter and Scott at events our children attend, I'm sure our concerns are very similar. And of course that is where I receive much of the input from people in the community. That is how I know that this forum is so widely read, and where I am so often told that they feel it is important that I continue to contribute actively. A significant number of such comments come from city employees I know, who also often note that they wish they could make their opinion known but will not or cannot and so ask me to.

Posting an opinion here does not assure a city official will read it but it does get read by a lot of fellow citizens, unlike a letter to council or a comment at the meeting. Expressing that opinion directly to the officials certainly does not mean it will be given much regard, at the present there is not even a well organized collection of such opinions that can be referred to in making policy decisions. This forum at least roughly organized contributions by topic.

Thank you Pilot for keeping this open. Perhaps you could allow anonymous postings on a case by case basis when the contributor requests it to avoid retribution.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

Question to Pilot staff, does the tally of views sort out repeat visits from the same viewer?

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

John,

Regardless of whether city staff should care about these forums, the actual letters submitted to city council only get a courtesy response thanking the person for the letter. But even a letter from a notable long time local general contractor with detailed questions on the projected construction costs gets only a "thank you" response.

City staff did not respond with data they have on police station costs. Nor did city council discuss the concerns in the letter and so the meeting minutes gives an answer on construction costs.

No, for all practical purposes if a citizen has a question or a concern then writing a letter to this city council is a complete waste of time. City staff will not answer any questions and city council will not consider the letter and then direct city staff to answer.

And certainly EVERY City Council member is free to read these forums and posts responses. While no one expects a city council member to respond to everything, there are certainly reasonable specific questions The current city council is so pathetic that a direct question on what is the wording of the accommodations tax spending ballot measure has to be answered by two members of the general public.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

I have sent letters to council and received no response more often than not, as recently as this spring. In fact the only time I got a direct response was years ago. I have also sent letters to staff, in response to letters from them, and not received a written acknowledgement even when it concerned ongoing matters. On one occasion, seven years ago I got a pretty prompt written response from a public works engineer. Sometimes with the Planning Department, responses have been many months in coming due to the matter being given comprehensive consideration.

But it's a small town, and if I want prompt feedback I just drop in at the offices for personal interaction. If the official is in, I always get courteous responses, and often resolve issues quickly. The nature of my activities (real estate development and construction) have required a great deal of coordination with regulatory functions, and often are time sensitive, so developing an ongoing relationship has been in the nature of things, it's the way to get things done effectively.

( And I often hear personal responses to my postings if no one else is listening)

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mark hartless 12 months ago

"This forum is an undirected, unmoderated crap shoot of crazy ideas, backstabbing,, and half thought out ideas."

In other words it's just like the pollitical structure where, for some reason, you seem to expect different results??

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John Fielding 12 months ago

The way I view this forum is that it's like having a conversation with a few people you may or may not agree with.

And there are a thousand others quietly listening in.

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Pat West 12 months ago

The way I view this forum is the grumpy old men on the balcony from the Muppet show, mixed with Nelson from the Simpsons, saying HeeHaw. Bah humbug to most anything, and everything, and plenty of corrections from know it all posters.

Those two old men, and Nelson, are some of my favorite fictional characters. Just my opinion.

ScottW, I would also it up that its not the city's job to respond to Pilot postings, but the reporters of this newspaper should research these questions, and report to all their findings.

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John Fielding 12 months ago

Amen to that Pat, especially about the responsibility of the Pilot.

I was not such a grumpy old man before I got involved with the city government. But that has aged me considerably and given me plenty to say humbug about. I hope to allow others to avoid my fate by the changes I propose.

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Scott Wedel 12 months ago

John,

So it is okay for city staff and city council members to not respond to letters written to them because the public is supposed to not expect a response? It is okay because the public is supposed to know to track down and city council member and speak to them face to face if they want a response?

Well, I guess that goes to show how special our city council members are. County Commissioners and our state legislature are willing to respond to the public and answer questions.

BTW, isn't it a remarkable difference between the city and county government? County has not had half baked proposals presented to the commissioners. County actually has a pattern of seeking public comment and responding prior taking action. A contentious issue such as drilling/fracking regulations is not handled by county staff presenting the new regulations, but with a process of not only accepting public input, but responding to public input.

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rhys jones 12 months ago

Hey Pilot -- You got hacked. Try to click on John Russell's "How to photograph fall" article -- some NCAA TV package ad hijacks it, no back-arrow works, that page is simply not available... kind of a bummer, as I see others have commented there. This happens regardless of browser or operating system. I'd appreciate it if you fixed that, and good luck!!

PS -- There is a crime here. We know who the perp is. Your access logs could be very revealing. Get 'em!!

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John Fielding 12 months ago

No Scott, it's not OK. But that's the way it is. Expectations are very low because that's what has been happening. We have come to accept that we will be disappointed, ignored, kept in the dark, have our money wasted in inefficiencies and hair-brain schemes, even have our representatives and city officials deliberately try to find ways around the laws that restrict their activity.

That malady is infectious and is spreading, it saps the initiative of those who want to do their best and serve the public interest as their job requires. It needs to be turned around, and full disclosure, press scrutiny, and public awareness is the remedy. The office of the citizen's advocate is an important first step in that direction toward accountability.

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