Our View: New website a step in right direction
October 26, 2013
The city of Steamboat Springs has launched a new website dedicated to the construction a new police station. The site went live Friday morning and will be used as a multifunctional tool for disseminating and collecting information from the public.
In previous editorials, this board has encouraged the city to step back from the push for a new police station and present a clear need for a new facility that involves opportunities for constructive citizen input. This new website seems to be a step in that direction, and we're anxious to see how citizens utilize the new resource and how city officials respond to the interest and input the users of the website will produce.
In addition to providing a history of the current police headquarters built in 1971, the site provides links to two needs assessment studies conducted in 2002 and 2013, plus a graph with population projections, an explanation of location criteria and an interactive map showing 26 different locations that have been considered as potential sites for a new police building. Users can click on the different numbered sites and view a list of pros, cons and "deal breakers" about each site. At the bottom of the site's home page is a "Public Comments" link where residents can email their comments about the project directly to the city.
As City Administrator Deb Hinsvark pointed out, the information and needs assessments provided on the website are not new. But what is new is that the website provides one central place where citizens can access the information about the police station easily and at their convenience. A city-run website can't replace public meetings, city council discussions or news coverage, but it can improve communication and transparency.
It is clear that construction of a new police station is a priority for the Steamboat Springs City Council. During recent budget hearings, the city earmarked a maximum of $8.9 million for the project beginning in 2014 and a new police station remains on the top of the city's list of capital projects it will fund throughout the next six years.
On Dec. 3, the council will be considering the selection of four primary locations as potential police station sites. In discussing these sites, City Council members would be wise to consider the input offered by citizens through the website and possibly adjust or amend their plans in response to community consensus.
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The Steamboat Pilot & Today applauds the city's willingness to try new methods and tools to communicate more effectively with the taxpaying public. The cost of creating a new website dedicated to the police station project is money well spent if it will be used to gather community feedback. We were encouraged when Hinsvark said in Friday's article announcing the launch of the site that city staff have ideas about where the police station should be placed but "those could change depending on the community responses."
We don't doubt there's a real need for a new police station, and this website can help the city demonstrate that need while also allowing the public to have input as to the scale or location of the project. It's a positive step in the right direction as the city moves the project forward.
The premise worked very well when the city used a MindMixer site to explore new ideas for the use of Emerald Mountain Park. We hope residents will take advantage of this latest resource and use it to gather more information about the police station project and to provide constructive input. The site can be accessed from the home page of the city's website at http://www.steamboat