Our View: Common sense prevailed
February 9, 2013
The city of Steamboat Springs, and its taxpayers, came perilously close to dumping another $1 million into the Iron Horse Inn last week before City Council members finally got it right by pulling the plug on the proposed sale of the fire and police stations at 840 Yampa St. What happens next should be the reshuffling of a process the city got wrong from the start.
To be clear, we don't think there were anything but good intentions from the people most closely involved in the drama that played out throughout the past few months. That list includes City Council members, Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark and Police Chief Joel Rae. And it most certainly includes the owners of local companies Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger, who contended all along they simply were offering what they felt was a fair market price for a piece of real estate that happened to be owned by a public entity.
But good intentions couldn't gloss over the backwards process that came to define the attempted sale of 840 Yampa St. and the resulting need to find new homes for the city's police and fire departments. What ultimately doomed the deal was last week's revelation that to temporarily relocate the police department in the Iron Horse Inn would cost nearly $1 million, a number too difficult for even the most pro-sale members of the council to swallow. After all, the Iron Horse disaster was created by a previous council, and there was no reason for this council to put its fingerprints all over it.
What we saw last week was common sense prevail. The public process may have been long and frustrating, but it ultimately worked. Out of the dust of the deal's collapse emerged a path forward, too. During Tuesday's council meeting, Rae made perhaps the most convincing case thus far for why the city's existing police station is inadequate and needs to be replaced. Council members then agreed they need to weigh the need, and cost, of a new police station against the city's other most pressing capital improvement projects. They told Rae to come back in May with more detailed plans for a new station.
That's the type of responsible public governance that seemed to get tossed by the wayside during the months-long scramble to, as Rae put it, "fit a square peg into a round hole."
The more difficult puzzle piece to solve will be the city's role, if any, in helping the growing companies of Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger remain in Steamboat Springs, where they continue to provide high-quality, good-paying jobs. That's another subject that deserves thoughtful council and community discussion.
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In the meantime, we should all take solace in the knowledge that the city avoided sinking another $1 million into the money pit known as the Iron Horse Inn.