Our View: City Council makes decisions out of order
October 20, 2012
The city of Steamboat Springs unnecessarily is forcing its own hand by negotiating the sale of its downtown police and fire station before having a plan in place for where to build a new public safety campus.
Now, a Steamboat Springs City Council that appeared determined to erase a previous council's Iron Horse Inn mistake could be headed toward a costly error of its own.
The council's decision last week to negotiate the sale of its building at 840 Yampa St. to Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP for $2.1 million essentially starts the clock on identifying a temporary or permanent home for police and fire services. We're still scratching our heads as to the sense of urgency the council and top city officials seem to have for dumping a piece of valuable downtown real estate at a price below the city's appraised value for it.
While we've been generally supportive of efforts to revitalize Yampa Street, and while we agree that Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP's vision for the space would be an asset for downtown Steamboat as well as a potential spark to further public and private redevelopment efforts on Yampa, that doesn't justify the backward order by which the council is addressing the issues.
The council did get something right during Tuesday's meeting when its members unanimously agreed not to build a new police station on the site of the Iron Horse Inn. But logic broke down from there. Instead of trying to come to terms with where to locate a new police and fire station (or even how necessary such a move is at this time), the council first voted 5-2 to negotiate the sale of its Yampa Street property to Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP. Only then did the council turn its attention to the future of the police and fire public safety campus.
The Stock Bridge Transit Center site is suddenly the preferred location of top city management, but we think building a combined police and fire station there could be a long-term mistake. The transit center was built with an eye to the future, and it provides valuable parking spaces as well as easy access to the Steamboat Springs Community Center, the Yampa River and the Yampa RiverCore Trail. The proposed public safety campus essentially would wipe out all existing parking at Stock Bridge, and the city's plan to compensate by adding new parking behind the Depot Art Center presents its own set of issues. The long-term vision for the Stock Bridge site shouldn't be thrown out simply because it's the quickest and easiest option.
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Fortunately, there's still time for the council to get its priorities straight. At the top of that list should be vetting all reasonable locations for a new public safety campus. Hold off on selling the Yampa Street property until a solid plan is in place that has been presented to the community. Until that happens, it will be difficult to say this council is any wiser than the one that signed off on the Iron Horse Inn purchase.