Our View: Can’t discuss police station without addressing fire department needs
May 18, 2013
It's hard not to be skeptical of Steamboat Springs' push for a new police station given the effort's dubious path throughout the past year. And while the city finally is following a more responsible process, there still are many questions to be answered about the most recent plan, including the size and cost of the facility as well as where it ranks as a priority among the city's other capital and infrastructure needs.
Importantly, any decision about building a new police station shouldn't be made without clarity on what the implications are for the city's fire department.
The council and city management have been mostly quiet about plans for a new fire station — or stations — since the most recent push for a new police headquarters. Last week, in a story in the Steamboat Today, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said the city and the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District are in discussions regarding a long-term strategic plan for fire services for the city and immediate surrounding areas. The goal is for the sides to agree on a plan and how to fund the eventual capital projects. When city officials were pushing for a sale of their downtown public safety campus to local company BAP, the discussions included plans for a new fire station at the Stock Bridge Transit Center and a future fire station west of city limits.
Stewart said last week that his department's existing space at 840 Yampa St. adequately suits the city's needs — at least for now. But it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the city moves forward with a new police station and doesn't quickly follow it up with a push for new fire facilities. For that reason alone, the city should consider holding off on any decisions about a police station until the future fire needs are established, including the cost-sharing agreement with the fire district.
Steamboat Springs and the areas served by its fire department very well might need expanded facilities in the near future, and the police department similarly could benefit from a more modern and spacious headquarters. But it's been a costly and bumbling process to date — Police Chief Joel Rae said the effort to build a new police station already has cost the city $91,000 in hard costs, not including the significant time he and other officials have invested in the planning throughout the past year — and taxpayers would be right to have concerns about the city's ability to objectively evaluate the merits of police and fire station proposals.
Ultimately, the city must be clear with residents about what the total scope and cost of police and fire facilities could be during the next several years. Pushing forward with a police station while keeping mum about fire stations isn't a winning strategy.