Steamboat City Council rules out replacing Iron Horse with police station | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council rules out replacing Iron Horse with police station

— The mission to find a new permanent home for the police officers and firefighters who work at 840 Yampa St. became more urgent Tuesday night after the Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-2, to negotiate the sale of the city-owned building to Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million.

Early in their lengthy discussion about moving emergency services off Yampa Street, the council also voted unanimously to spare the Iron Horse from becoming a new police station.

Agreeing with members of the public who have criticized the proposal to raze the aging motel and replace it with a new 15,000-square-foot police headquarters, council members said they need to find a better location. And they want more time settle on one.

But city officials said they shouldn’t wait too long.

"Timing is becoming a critical issue for us," Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said. "If we don’t begin designing the station today, we will not be able to start construction in the summer."

The council’s rejection of the Iron Horse proposal came after Hinsvark said she recently learned the city could transfer the collateral on the motel’s debt service to a different city asset such as the community center.

She said such a move could potentially allow the city to close the Iron Horse, demolish it or sell it to a private operator.

The council agreed to revisit the Iron Horse and its future at its next meeting.

The rejection of the Iron Horse proposal leaves the Stock Bridge Transit Center as the only current alternative site for a combined police and fire station, but several council members indicated they want the city to find more options.

Initial discussions centered on finding office space to lease in the short term and having more dialogue with outgoing TIC about developing a public safety campus on its west Steamboat property.

Council members had concerns that building the proposed 28,000-square-foot public safety campus at Stock Bridge at a cost of $11.4 million while eliminating most of the public parking there would have negative consequences.

City officials said that to offset the loss of parking at Stock Bridge, they would spend $600,000 adding parking to a parcel of land they own next to B&K Distributing on 13th Street, just across the railroad crossing from the Depot Art Center.

Public Safety Director Joel Rae said he "felt very good about the fire and police stations being relocated from downtown" to the Stock Bridge site.

The sale of the emergency services building is the first step to relocate the police and fire stations off Yampa Street. Council members Cari Hermacinski and Walter Magill voted against the sale.

Hermacinski questioned whether the building, which is proposed to be sold to Big Agnes for well less than its $3 million appraised value, could be advertised to other potential buyers.

She also said the council needs to discuss its practice of spending taxpayer dollars to keep certain businesses, like SmartWool and Big Agnes, from leaving Steamboat.

"Will we constantly be chasing after organizations that want to stay here with taxpayer dollars and taxpayer resources?" Hermacinski asked.

Proponents of the sale of the building said the outdoor retailers’ presence downtown will bring a much-needed spark to Yampa Street, similar to the way the promenade is expected to foster growth at the base of Mount Werner.

Part of the city’s negotiations with Big Agnes and Honey Stinger is expected to include a provision that would allow the city to buy back the building at a pre-determined price should the company leave Steamboat or fail to meet certain parameters.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com