Our View: Good planning pays off
September 10, 2013
You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and for travelers entering Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40 from the east, their welcome to town is less than memorable. But thanks to an investment by the city of Steamboat Springs, with cooperation and financial support from the Urban Redevelopment Authority Advisory Committee and the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, those drab highway median strips from JD Hays Way to Pine Grove Road are getting a face-lift.
Adding native shrubs, aspen trees, concrete pavers, grass and architectural street lights to the median areas along U.S. 40 from Anglers Drive to downtown made a vast improvement to the appearance of the highway in that area a number of years ago, and extending the landscaping east will complete the corridor improvement plan.
According to City Manager Deb Hinsvark, the median project was on the city's 2013 capital improvement plan and was slated to be completed in two parts throughout two years. In re-evaluating the project, city officials determined it would cost $30,000 more if stretched during two years, Hinsvark said, and the original cost estimate of $547,000 was too low.
In order to advance the project, the city moved the 2014 budgeted amount for the project into the 2013 plan and partnered with members of URAAC, who agreed to contribute $160,000 toward the total project cost of $707,000. The city will pay the rest.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today recognizes the aesthetic and economic value of creating an entrance into the city that enhances its appeal to visitors and creates a welcoming gateway into the community. We also applaud URAAC's willingness to collaborate with the city to fast track the beautification project.
The median project is just one project on the city's capital improvement plan, which should serve as the city's guide for completing capital projects. At times, the city has veered off that path and pursued projects that did not seem to be high on the priority list, and as a result, officials encountered resistance from the public.
No one is surprised by the median improvement project because the city has talked about it for years and included it on its plan. And with that reality in mind, we urge the city to continue to use its capital improvement plan as a public planning tool to prioritize needs and let those needs guide spending decisions.
With the 2014 budget process started and an election on the horizon, it's the perfect time for city officials to follow its best practices by creating a detailed, prioritized capital improvement plan and following it. If the city has a road map for prioritized community needs that has been vetted and shared with the public, it's much easier to tackle necessary projects in a timely and efficient manner with less pushback from residents.
On Oct. 1, the City Council will begin the 2014 budget hearing process. Instead of asking residents to attend a lengthy all-day hearing, we encourage the city to consider scheduling a few informal public meetings to talk about what items are on the capital improvement plan and why. These meetings would provide city residents an opportunity to offer input on the city's capital spending plan and would give city officials a platform for presenting their case for investing millions of dollars on future capital projects such as a new police station, relocation of the downtown fire station or renovation of the rodeo grounds — all projects listed on the 2013 capital improvement plan.