At open house, city of Steamboat unveils latest plans for relocation of downtown emergency services | SteamboatToday.com

At open house, city of Steamboat unveils latest plans for relocation of downtown emergency services

Steamboat Springs Public Safety Director Joel Rae details on Thursday the latest options for the relocation of police officers and firefighters who work in the city's downtown emergency services building.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original published version. The city hopes to secure additional funding through DOLA and Energy Impact grants, not a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, to help pay for new police and fire stations.

The Iron Horse Inn could become a police station after all, but only temporarily.

The city of Steamboat Springs’ plan to house its police force in the hotel building it closed last month while it waits for a new headquarters to be constructed was one of the many new details city officials revealed Thursday night during an open house about the future of Steamboat’s emergency services.

Public Safety Director Joel Rae kicked off the meeting in the city’s downtown fire station by telling a crowd of about 40 community members that the city’s police officers and firefighters need a larger, more efficient workspace.

He then outlined four possible plans for the city to accomplish that, including three that would rely on successful negotiations with the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District to share the cost of building an additional small fire station west of downtown.

By spending an estimated $6.75 million of its unrestricted reserve funds, Rae said the city could build a combined police and fire headquarters at the site of the Stock Bridge Transit Center.

Or, for a little more, it could make the fire station at the public safety campus at Stock Bridge three bays smaller and build another three-bay station between Steamboat II and Heritage Park west of city limits.

Cost sharing with the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District would lead to faster response times in west Steamboat while also saving the city about $274,000 annually in operating and capital costs, Rae said.

The third option is to construct a new 15,000-square-foot police headquarters on an 8-acre parcel of land that is currently owned by the U.S. government near the intersection of Hilltop Parkway and U.S. Highway 40 above Yampa Valley Bank. The city still is working to determine how it could obtain the parcel, with one option being a land swap.

In that relocation scenario, two smaller fire stations still would be constructed at Stock Bridge and in west Steamboat.

The final and most expensive option is to add a police station above City Hall on 10th Street, and build the two fire stations at Stock Bridge and in west Steamboat. That plan would necessitate spending $8.4 million from city reserves.

All of the options would cost more than the amount of unrestricted reserves to be allocated to the projects. The city has said other funding sources for the new headquarters would include revenue from the sale of the current downtown emergency services building ($2.1 million), potential DOLA and Energy Impact grants, and money from a potential cost sharing with the rural fire district, Rae said.

"We think we’re zeroing in on the final plan," he said, adding that he feels the city now has "much better options" for the move than it did when the Steamboat Springs City Council first publicly considered a relocation proposal in March.

Asked by a community member Thursday which option was his top choice, Rae said a police station at the site off Hilltop Parkway along with the construction of two smaller fire stations is the city’s preferred plan because it would maximize the efficiency of both the new police and fire stations.

All four plans are dependent upon action by the City Council on Tuesday night.

The council is scheduled to decide whether to sell the city’s current emergency services building to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million. Approving that deal would set in motion the relocation of the emergency services.

If the sale is approved on second reading in January, Rae would have until March 1 to move police headquarters into the Iron Horse.

He estimated Thursday the move and renovations to the hotel would cost about $113,000, a price he said would be less than the other option of renting office space from TIC for about $10,000 a month.

The fire department would be allowed to continue to work out of the existing emergency services building at 840 Yampa St. for 18 months after the close of the sale as part of the deal negotiated with BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger.

Rae said he hopes the council will decide Tuesday both whether to sell the building and where to construct new police and fire stations.

"As I’ve already said publicly, I would have some concern if they decide to sell the building without also choosing" where to relocate the emergency services, Rae told the audience at Thursday’s open house.

As he pointed out that everyone could see an illuminated Howelsen Hill through the bay doors of the fire station, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs President Bill Moser praised the city’s efforts to fill the building with local companies that are expected to bring more of an economic benefit to downtown and would maximize the use of the building.

Local developer Steve Caragol also was supportive of the city’s move to find a larger and more efficient public safety campus, but he questioned the city’s efforts to market the building and receive the best price for it.

“(The new headquarters) I think is necessary, but I think we’re selling the public short by not marketing this building properly," Caragol said, adding that he doesn’t feel the city is getting market value for the building.

Other questions from the audience revealed both support and criticism of the proposed sale.

Rae and Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark will present the City Council on Tuesday with more detailed versions of the relocation proposals unveiled Thursday.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com