Rob Douglas: City adds insult to injury
September 12, 2013
Steamboat Springs — On Aug. 13, the Steamboat Springs Police Department issued a letter on behalf of the city inviting community members to attend "a community meeting to further explore the possibility of building a Police Station in the lower Northwest corner of Rita Valentine Park."
After providing the dates and locations of the two meetings, the letter stated: "The City of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Police Department greatly values your participation and any comments you are willing to share about this conceptual idea." (The emphasis is mine.)
More than 150 community members turned out for the meetings and, almost without exception, condemned the idea of building an 18,000-square-foot police station on 3 acres of a long-established park in a residential neighborhood.
Having upset the very community that was invited, and having received from the invitees a significant number of comments about why the park is an unsuitable location for a police station, Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark let the invited community know just how "greatly" she valued their participation.
On Monday, Hinsvark told the Steamboat Today, "The thing we wanted the community to understand is that while we have 110 people who are very invested in letting us know this is not going to make them happy, we have a police station we need to provide for 12,000 people."
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The city invited residents — several people flew in from distant cities to attend the meetings — to share their thoughts about a proposed location for a new police station. And then, when those residents did as requested, the city manager tells them their view is inconsequential in the greater scheme of the city's plan.
Talk about adding insult to injury.
Perhaps the next time the city invites folks to a meeting to express their opinion on a matter of public import, Hinsvark should dispense with the pleasantries and proceed directly to throwing buckets of cold water on the audience.
Is there anyone who has spent more than an hour observing how Hinsvark cherry-picks facts to suit her argument du jour who doesn't believe that if there'd been even a modicum of support for a police station in Rita Valentine Park she'd trumpet it as consequential?
One person who flew in to attend one of the meetings was Scott Owens. Owens, the president of a construction firm in Texas who maintains a second home in Steamboat, was so frustrated with the city's Rita Valentine Park proposal that he emailed a Colorado Open Records Act request to Hinsvark on Tuesday seeking a detailed list of information about "the top 4 or 5 site selections considered for the new police station."
Owens request, while legally imperfect, sparked a series of emails between Owens and Hinsvark that a number of members of the Steamboat Springs City Council observed with growing displeasure. Finally, due to growing internal and external resistance, Hinsvark indicated Thursday that city management will present its "findings to council next Tuesday night and ask that (Rita Valentine Park) be removed from consideration so that this neighborhood can breathe a sigh of relief."
On Thursday, Owens asked me what was behind Hinsvark's proposal to use the park as a location for a police station. That's a good question. The proposal has further damaged Hinsvark in the eyes of several council members while simultaneously damaging the council in the eyes of the community.
Perhaps, as several community members have suggested, the Rita Valentine Park proposal was a bait-and-switch. In other words, get citizens so fired up in opposition to the park proposal that they'll swallow the next proposal — the real proposal — no matter the location or cost.
That brings us to more news: Hinsvark indicated to Owens that there still are seven sites under consideration for the police station. If true, the council should immediately make those locations public so the residents of Steamboat aren't presented with a fait accompli at the council's Oct. 15 meeting.
Equally as important, a majority of the council owe the residents of Steamboat an explanation about why they've allowed Hinsvark to waste time, money and political capital promoting a police station in Rita Valentine Park.
To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com