City moves closer to selling downtown emergency services building, but many questions remain
December 18, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Springs is one step closer to selling its downtown emergency services building on Yampa Street and constructing new police and fire stations to replace it.
What still isn’t clear is when and where the new headquarters will be built, and at what cost.
By a 5-2 vote and after more than an hour of public comment, the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night approved the first reading of a contract to sell 840 Yampa St. to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million. Council members Cari Hermacinski and Walter Magill voted against the sale.
In the same motion, the council agreed to delay the second and final reading of the contract until Jan. 22 and after city officials have a chance to tie up what many council members called "loose ends" in the final four options to relocate the police and firefighters off of Yampa Street.
Those loose ends included determining whether the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District will commit to sharing the cost of a proposed second fire station in west Steamboat, what the city will pay in annual maintenance costs to temporarily house their police force at the Iron Horse Inn while a new station is constructed, and whether a parcel of land near the aging hotel can be secured to house that new station.
"We have an intent to sell (840 Yampa St.), but there’s still some work to do," council member Kevin Kaminski said as he summarized the council’s lengthy deliberations to BAP owner Bill Gamber and the large audience in Centennial Hall.
The council deliberated at length whether to table its vote on the first reading of the sales contract until it settled on the locations for the new police and fire headquarters. But it went forward with the vote after Gamber said he couldn’t guarantee he would continue with the transaction if it was delayed any longer.
"Our clock is ticking, so I can’t guarantee we’ll be here Jan. 22 (for another first reading)," Gamber said. "This process could get drug on and we may no longer be interested."
If the sale of 840 Yampa St. is approved on second reading next month, the city plans to invest an estimated $113,000 to retrofit the aging Iron Horse Inn as a temporary police station.
Public Safety Director Joel Rae said Tuesday night the hotel could serve as the temporary police headquarters for as many as three years depending on when and where a new station is built.
He kicked off Tuesday’s meeting by presenting the council with the final four options to construct a new police headquarters and as many as two fire stations.
As they weighed the options for where to build the new stations, a majority of council members were unable to commit to any of the options because they felt there were too many unknowns in the proposals to make a decision Tuesday.
"Unfortunatley, everything in here is kind of a ‘what if?’," Kaminski said, referring to city staff’s top choice to build a 15,000-square-foot police station on an 8-acre parcel of U.S. government-owned land at U.S. Highway 40 and Hilltop Parkway.
City officials acknowledge they are only in the early stages of pursuing the property, which could take more than a year to acquire in a land swap.
Public weighs in
Tuesday’s vote on the sale of the downtown emergency services building attracted a large crowd to Centennial Hall.
About 25 community members spoke at the meeting, with most of them opposed to the proposed sale of the current emergency services building.
"When the city jumps into something before all the ‘t’s’ are crossed and ‘i’s’ are dotted, we tend to jump into some trouble," Steamboat Springs resident Paul Stettner said. "I don’t see the logic in having to make a decision right away. Get all these loose ends tied up, and take your time with it."
Stettner’s request to the council to take more time to vet the relocation proposals was echoed by many others who spoke in opposition to the plan.
But others in the audience, including some local business owners, were supportive of the sale.
"The sale of the city building is a lynch pin for getting Yampa Street the way it should be," Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Board President Bill Moser said. "Stars are aligning for us, and we need to take advantage of this opportunity."
Darcy Owens-Trask, former director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, told the council Steamboat is competing with Salt Lake City and Portland to retain outdoor retail jobs like those offered by Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger.
She said losing those lucrative jobs would hurt the local economy.
"I would commend you if you would look carefully at what you need to do to keep these jobs in the community," she said.
Gamber said his company never has asked the city for any incentives or support. Instead, he said it was former City Manger Jon Roberts who approached him last year with an idea to lease the building and allow his company to continue its growth in Steamboat.
As talks progressed, the proposed lease turned into a sales contract.
"We really feel we bring something good to the community," Gamber said. "I want to make it super clear how excited we are to have this (sale) happen."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com