Our View: City Council should table vote on building sale
December 11, 2012
The Steamboat Springs City Council should table its vote on selling the city's downtown public safety campus until the community has been given more time to understand the ramifications of the far-reaching transaction.
As it stands, the council is scheduled for a first vote on the sales contract Tuesday. But with less than a week remaining before a decision that could result in the expenditure of $10 million or more in taxpayer money, the city still has not presented its latest plans for temporarily relocating the police department or for the construction of a new public safety campus, presumably at the Stock Bridge Transit Center. Absent those details and time for additional community vetting, it's simply not appropriate for the City Council to move forward with the project.
Time is on the city's side, and it's certainly possible the plan to sell the building and adjacent parking lots at 840 Yampa St. to local companies Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million ultimately could be a good move for the city. But the false sense of urgency that seems to be driving this deal is a dangerous way to do taxpayer business.
Quite simply, there is no rush to consummate a deal, despite what some city officials might say. "New car fever" has led to questionable, and costly, City Council decisions in the recent past. An expensive new community center was built on the back of fears that senior citizens no longer would have a place to eat lunch given Bud Werner Memorial Library's expansion. Hand-wringing about where to house city employees led to a hasty and regrettable decision to purchase the Iron Horse Inn. The sale of 840 Yampa St. is likely to result in the expenditure of taxpayer dollars that exceeds the cost of the Iron Horse purchase and new community center construction combined.
Does Steamboat Springs eventually need a new (or remodeled) police headquarters and fire station? Yes. Would the presence of Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger do more for Yampa Street revitalization than the presence of a police and fire station? Absolutely. The question then becomes what that Yampa Street vision is worth to the city and its taxpayers. We don't think enough specifics have been presented to the community to answer that question.
As much as some city officials would have us think that the 840 Yampa St. sale has been open to public discussion since spring, that simply hasn't been the case. It's even harder to justify a vote on the sale next week when those same city officials haven't presented detailed proposals, including costs, of relocating police services to a temporary location while a new public safety campus is designed and built. The city is holding an open house from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the downtown police station to discuss those plans, but it's providing very little information in advance about what the new proposals headed to the council next week will entail.
Nonetheless, five days later, those same city officials want council to sign off on the $2.1 million sale and the domino effect it will have on much costlier decisions. The timing of these decisions is off, leaving us no other choice but to urge the City Council to table a decision on the transaction.