The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night decided it would not entertain putting a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the city should build a new police station.

File/John F Russell

The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night decided it would not entertain putting a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the city should build a new police station.

Steamboat City Council won't entertain police station ballot question

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— Voters here won't be asked whether the city of Steamboat Springs should build a new police station.

The Steamboat Springs City Council talked Tuesday night about the possibility of putting the question on a ballot in November.

Council member Scott Ford wanted the council to talk more at its July 15 meeting about the merits of asking voters what they think about funding the large capital project.

"This is the largest capital expenditure the city of Steamboat Springs is proposing to make in its 114-year history," Ford said of the police station the city has initially estimated could cost more than $8 million. "It's a very big deal, and I would like to have that discussion as to the pros and cons of the merits of placing this on the ballot."

A majority of the council quickly dismissed the idea, however, saying the decision ultimately should come from them.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Our place up here is to lead and show leadership," council member Kenny Reisman said. "The power is with the people and that power is transferred to elected officials to make decisions."

Council President Bart Kounovsky said the creators of the city's charter set rules to ensure budgetary items should not be brought to the people because it's the council's job to make those decisions.

Scott Myller had a different reasoning for not supporting the ballot measure.

"They're not going to vote for it," Myller said. "I can see it. We know we need it. How are we going to convey they need it? I think we need to do our job here. We've done the research. We think it's a prudent expense."

A vote to discuss the possible ballot question at an upcoming meeting failed 3-4.

Ford and council members Sonja Macys and Walter Magill were open to at least having the discussion, although Magill made it clear he was not in favor of putting it to a public vote.

Macys, a longtime critic of the police station project, said it would be a healthy discussion to have.

City attorney Tony Lettunich said the city charter prohibits citizens from petitioning decisions about capital projects and other expenditures onto a ballot. However, a council could decide to put what is called an advisory question to voters on such things.

The council also would have to decide whether it would be bound by the result of the vote.

With a ballot question on a police station dismissed by council, the project continues to move forward.

At its last meeting, the council kept city staff moving ahead on planning for the station.

City officials and some council members say replacing the current police facility on Yampa Street is an urgent need because they see the station as cramped, outdated and inadequate for today's police force.

After a long briefing about the city's top five building locations June 17, a slim majority of the council directed city staff to focus their search on three empty lots away from downtown and the current public safety campus on Yampa Street.

The sites most favored by the council include a parcel owned by Yampa Valley Medical Center at the corner of Pine Grove Road and Central Park Drive, a lot next to the Western Convenience gas station off Hilltop Parkway and a lot just south of the Hampton Inn & Suites off U.S. Highway 40.

Other agenda highlights

Sales tax projection

Finance Director Kim Weber presented the city's initial sales tax projections for 2015. Council members spent some time discussing if they should continue their conservative approach of purposefully budgeting to spend less revenue than what the city is realistically projected to receive.

"I appreciate the more conservative approach," council member Tony Connell said. "I think there's still a lot of risk out there in the world, and a lot of risk with the weather. I like the fact we're budgeting less and putting more toward reserves."

Kenny Reisman suggested that city staff present the council with a summary of what it might have missed out on funding by spending significantly less than the amount of revenue the city receives.

"I think it might be helpful to hear from city staff what did we lose (by budgeting lower) because service seems great, and efficiency seems rock solid," Reisman said. "I think it would be interesting."

Impact of marijuana

Looking at a recap of sales tax growth in recent years, some council members were wondering what kind of impact the new marijuana industry is having on the revenue picture.

Council President Bart Kounovsky said he's seen the significant impact calculated in other communities in Colorado and was wondering if the same was true in Steamboat.

Connell said the legalization of marijuana was sold to the community as a tax boost, and he also wanted to see what the impact has been.

Because Steamboat only has three marijuana vendors, Finance Director Kim Web said isolating sales tax data on the industry would violate the city's sales tax code because it could reveal proprietary information.

Some council members then asked if instead of being lumped in with a broad miscellaneous retail category, if marijuana sales could be combined with liquor sales in the reports.

Weber said she would consult with the city's legal staff to see if that option would be possible.

Home loan extended

It took little discussion for the council to extend by two years the due date of a home loan the city gave to former city manager Alan Lanning eight years ago. Lanning will have to repay the $133,000 loan either two years from now or when he sells his home, which he listed for sale May 1.

Council member Scott Ford was the only council member to oppose the motion, saying his vote of opposition was to express his opinion that the city "should not do this kind of silliness again."

Many other council members agreed with Ford and pointed out they weren't on council when the home loan was approved for Lanning.

The loan was granted upon Lanning's hiring near the peak of the housing market when it was harder for people to purchase homes here.

The city has not acted on the collection dates of the loan because of the distressed housing market and the difficult time Lanning would have had selling the home.

City of Steamboat's top building sites for a new police station

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

scott bideau 5 months, 2 weeks ago

"We've done the research. We think it's a prudent expense."

My research has been to ask every police officer I see if they need a new police station. 100% of the respondents say "no."

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 2 weeks ago

So how is Erie Colorado, population 18,000 able to design a new 13,200 sq ft police station, a municipal court and shared lobby totaling 17,000 sq ft for $6.2M? Their voters approved bonds in April. Their costs are about half per sq ft of what SB has projected for a police station.

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Richard Bear 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe Erie, Colorado has a more realistic assessment of the REAL needs for their cop shop. Do we REALLY need to build a private gym (workout area) and an indoor shooting range? Can't the Police folks go to Health and Rec to buff up, or to the existing RCRC shooting range to practice their deadly aim?

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Fred Duckels 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Can a petition be forthcoming to force a vote ala SB700?

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Scott Ford 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Hi Fred – The blunt answer to your question is NO! I do not think folks understand how big of a NO this is.

The City Charter does not allow the citizenry the opportunity via the petition process to overturn a decision of the City Council on budgeted capital expenditures. Simply put, this community is on the trajectory to build a new police station out of the downtown area. Exactly where this new police station will be, its size and features are TBD.

With the 2014 budget, $10.7 million in reserve funds were transferred to the capital improvement budget. Of this $10.7 million about $8.4 million is for a new police station. In the current budget year $300K has been budgeted to be spent on planning. At the present time $8.7 million is earmarked in the capital improvement budget to construct a police station in 2015. (This $8.7 million consist of $8.1 million of local citizenry money and $600K of OPM.)

I do not want to say that the construction of a new police station in 2015 is a forgone conclusion but it is headed that way. The last “line” of opposition will occur during the 2015 budgeting process. There is nothing that prevents City Council from “defunding” the scheduled 2015 budget police station expenditures.

I think there is little hope of this happening. In addition, I think some council members will be faced with voting NO on the entire 2015 budget because $8.7 million for police station construction will be in the 2015 capital expenditure budget.

Is it St. Jude that is the patron saint of lost causes?

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect the opinions of my fellow council members.)

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jerry carlton 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Once again our nanny government knows what is best for us and I am a police supporter. Remember who voted yes and who voted no during the next election. Personally I am going to write it down as I am too old to remember.

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I think if city council with join the Iron Horse 7 as politically dead if the approve a $10M police station with shooting range, gym, fancy offices, private bathrooms and so on.

I think the design of a replacement police station should be expected to take at least as long as it does to identify the site. The design is certainly more complex with more issues than locating a vacant commercial lot. If city council tries to ram through a design before most people know what is included then that probably would lead to a voter revolt.

It is my guess that the public would aceept a new police station that is seen as cost effective. A land swap with the hospital would appear to be cost effective.

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