Steamboat Springs City Council to discuss police station relocation Tuesday
May 5, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The dozens of Steamboat Springs residents who recently toured the city’s downtown police station saw firsthand what Public Safety Director Joel Rae has been saying publicly for more than a year.
The station is cramped.
"It’s a disaster!" one community member wrote in the brief survey participants were asked to fill out after the tour, which highlighted a lack of evidence storage space and security in the building. "Everyone works in close contact. No room to store evidence, files and to do their jobs …"
Another respondent called the building "outdated, and frankly embarrassing."
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Rae and other city officials are hoping those concerns are shared by members of the Steamboat Springs City Council, who on Tuesday night will be asked to weigh in on how much of a priority the construction of a new police station is for them.
Rae, along with a group of architects who recently conducted a space-needs study for the police department, will hold a workshop with the council and start to build a new police station on paper.
Rae said the goal of the workshop will be to determine the amount of space police need in a new facility and also to gauge whether the council is committed to such a project.
City officials will be challenged to convince the council that the station, which has been passed over for several years because of limited funding, should be a budget priority.
When the new police station last was discussed in the council’s chambers in February, many council members said the new facility indeed is a budget priority, but some questioned whether it would be the best way to spend millions of the city’s reserve funds.
The council agreed to weigh the expenditure against other projects that include deferred maintenance and millions of dollars' worth of potential upgrades to its stormwater infrastructure.
On Tuesday, Rae again will tell the council why he thinks now is the time to invest in a new police headquarters.
He said the current station lacks many things, including secure holding cells, an adaquate number of interview rooms, evidence storage and a secure entrance separate from the public entrance.
"In my opinion, I think it would be some of the best money spent that we could spend in the entire city right now," Rae said Thursday outside his office at 840 Yampa St. "It’s also going to be one of the largest and most expensive projects the city has done in a long time, and with that, we need to make sure we’re doing it right."
The city’s police department has operated out of the downtown building since 1982, and a space study completed in 2002 found the department needed 16,000 square feet to operate more effectively.
The downtown location has 6,600 square feet of space on the top floor, and 1,400 square feet of garage space.
It is home to about 38 employees.
Plans to build new fire and police headquarters in Steamboat came to a sudden halt in February after a proposed sale of the existing headquarters to outdoor retailers BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger fell through.
Rae said Thursday that the scrapping of the sale has taken a lot of pressure off his department.
"I think it’s nice this project is no longer being driven by the sale of our current building," Rae said. "It’s no longer being driven by Yampa Street redevelopment, and there’s no longer any timeline or earnest money being held or anything to cloud or complicate this issue."
He added the city is "back to square one" on the plan.
Immediately after the sale was scrapped, Rae was on the Front Range touring several recently constructed police stations in places like Louisville, Parker, Cherry Hills Village and Lafayette.
He said he was able to learn about efficiencies that were added to the buildings and also what the departments wish they had done differently.
In March, the police department started hosting the public tours of Steamboat’s existing headquarters.
Rae said the tours attracted about 50 community members.
"Those who participated on the tour recognized the cramped quarters and the need for a new building," Rae said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com