Steamboat Springs Police Department chief renews efforts to build new police station |

Steamboat Springs Police Department chief renews efforts to build new police station

Steamboat Springs Police Department community service supervisor Tom Whiddon works Friday at the public safety campus in downtown Steamboat. Police Chief Joel Rae said the cramped and inefficient office is one of the examples why a new police department building is needed.

— Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae is refocusing efforts to build a new police station that brings efficiencies, more security and much-needed additional space.

"We're literally going back to square one," Rae said Friday.

At 2 p.m. Thursdays during March, Rae will host tours of the existing police station on Yampa Street in the heart of downtown. The tours are aimed at educating the public about the various aspects of police work and showing them the existing facilities.

"We're trying to let them make up their own minds," Rae said. "I know what our needs are for a police department. I want the community to learn about the needs. I want to hear what they have to say."

People who go on the tour will be asked to complete a six-question survey.

Rae will discuss the results of the survey with Steamboat Springs City Council members during a May 7 council meeting. A study that will outline what the space needs are for the department is expected to be completed by that time, as well.

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Rae said the first floor of the building was built in 1974 for the fire department, and the police department moved into a second-story addition in 1982. Police shared the space with the City Council chambers until about 2000, when the chambers were moved to Centennial Hall.

Rae said city officials have discussed the need for a new police station since at least 2002, but the project always has been put off, possibly because of the cost. Today, the cost of a new police station is estimated to be about $6 million.

In the past year, there have been many discussions about moving the police department and first-floor fire department. Those discussions were accelerated by an offer from the Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and BAP companies to purchase the property from the city. The deal became controversial because many thought it was rushed, and there was no concrete plan for where to relocate the police and fire departments. Some also criticized the city and said it was selling the property for less than what it was worth. City officials characterized the deal as economic development.

In the end, the City Council canceled the sale Feb. 5.

With the dust from the controversy someone settled, Rae is focused on his primary goal of building a new police station.

"I'm pretty much convinced it would be cheaper to build a new police department than remodel this to fit our needs," Rae said.

Included on the tour is a stop at the one interview room equipped with video and audio recording equipment. One is not enough, Rae said, and the existing building has no secure holding cells. Rae also pointed out some of the building's vulnerabilities.

"One of my biggest concerns in the security," Rae said.

Some office spaces, such as the 90-square-foot room used by community service and animal control officers, is cramped and inadequate, Rae said, as is the evidence room used to process more than 1,000 pieces of evidence each year.

"Having an area 6 feet by 10 feet to process every piece of evidence is a big problem for us," Rae said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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