Steamboat City Council appears ready to ask public for help with police station planning | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council appears ready to ask public for help with police station planning

A Steamboat Springs Police vehicle leaves the current police station in June.

— Unable to reach a consensus on the best place to build a new police station and weary of how the project has been handled so far, the Steamboat Springs City Council appears ready to turn to the public for some help.

Some council members want to form a citizens committee that would help search for a station building site.

Recent police station milestones

March 2012: City staff presents plan to build a $19.5 million public safety campus in west Steamboat that would be funded by property tax

September 2012: City presents new idea to raze Iron Horse Inn and replace it with new police station at a cost no greater than $7 million.

October 2012: Council decides to spare Iron Horse, but moves to start negotating sale of existing police headquarters to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger

November 2012: City expands search for new police station building location.

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December 2012: Opposition grows to proposed sale of building before new police station location identified

December 2012: City holds open house and reveals it wants to temporarily house police department at Iron Horse while other building locations pursued

February 2013: City Council scraps proposed sale of existing building after it learns cost of temporarily locating police at Iron Horse is much higher than anticipated

May 2013: Council votes unanimously that new police station is needed

August 2013: City eyes Rita Valentine Park as police station site

September 2013: City no longer wants to build at Rita Valentine because of logistic concerns, community criticism

June 2014: City Council picks top 3 building sites that include YVMC site, Fox Creek and U.S. Highway 40 site south of Hampton Inn

January 2014: Council approves conceptual design for 15,000-square-foot station but can’t agree on building site

January 2014: Several council members express interest in involving public more in police station planning

A few members want to go even further than that by putting the police station to a public vote and involving citizens more in all aspects of the station’s planning from the design to its financing.

How involved the public will become in the process could become clear at a council meeting next month and will depend on whether council can reach a consensus on the best way citizens should get involved.

Based on recent comments from council members, a public vote on the station appears to be unlikely, but there are several members who are open to the idea of forming a citizens committee to help with the station planning.

“The process has gotten mucked up, and we’ve got to revisit how we’re going about this,” council member Kenny Reisman said Monday.

Despite some recent snags in planning for the station, a majority of the council remains committed to building the new facility to replace the outdated and cramped police facility on Yampa Street.

But division over the potential building sites for the station and criticism about how the project has been handled so far have led the council to believe more public involvement is needed before the project can continue.

Reisman is one of the members who is calling for a citizens committee to help with the planning for a new police station.

He said the committee first could tour the station to gauge the need for a new one and then help choose a location for the building.

“It could be something similar to what we did with the accommodations tax or stormwater,” Reisman said referring to two recent occasions citizens groups have helped the council tackle some big decisions. “We’ve had good success there, and I think it makes sense to move in that direction. I don’t think this means we need to bring (the police station project) to a halt. We’ve got to move forward on it.”

He does not see the committee helping too much with the station’s design or making funding recommendations.

“The need and the site would be the priority,” he said. “When they are evaluating needs, obviously they are evaluating size, and that will be part of the conversation. But I don’t see the committee being charged with figuring out the price tag or the ins and outs of the building.”

Council member Scott Myller originally was opposed to the idea of turning to the public to help choose a building location for the station, but council’s recent division over the issue has left him open to the idea.

“I felt like I was elected to make this decision,” Myller said, adding he didn’t want to burden the community with “exhaustive” meetings about a new police station. “I’m fine with picking a site and building a police station, because the information I have leads me to believe that’s what we need. But since our council is so divided, and two (members) really want a big public discourse, and that’s what it’s going to take to get their support, let’s get it going.”

Sonja Macys and Scott Ford are those two members who have long expressed a desire to see the police station project shift from a staff-driven project to one that is driven by the council and the public.

In his most recent council report, Ford wrote that he could get to a “yes” on the police station if “as a city council we collectively commit to a public process” that is “citizen driven and less staff driven.”

He pointed out that public involvement has helped to guide projects including the remodel of Steamboat Springs High School, the construction of Bud Werner Memorial Library and the planning for Colorado Mountain College’s new academic facility.

Ford is suggesting that a ballot question be used in the fall to determine if the community approves of the police station plan after the public gets involved in its planning.

Macys’ suggestions include partnering with other community organizations and law enforcement agencies to possibly share space, assembling a citizens committee to look into building locations and financing options and putting the station to a public vote.

But she concluded her council report by stating she felt the station needs to be tabled “at least until we have addressed our own issues of governance” regarding the planning for the station.

At its last meeting, the council abruptly ended a discussion about the police station when it learned it did not have the four votes needed to move forward with a purchase of a building site on U.S. Highway 40 just south of the Hampton Inn.

Reisman, Myller and Walter Magill expressed interest in the site, while Macys and Ford did not want to consider it in part because they felt the police station project has not had adequate involvement from the public.

Council President Bart Kounovsky and Tony Connell have been stepping down from the police station planning discussions because of their business and financial connections to the U.S. 40 site.

The site discussion was further complicated by the fact that the city administration hired Connell’s brother-in-law to vet the council’s preferred police station sites.

The police station is not on council’s agenda Tuesday night, but the council members could choose to add it on an upcoming one.

Reisman plans to propose Tuesday night that the council discuss the idea of a citizens committee next month.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Recent police station milestones

March 2012: City staff presents plan to build a $19.5 million public safety campus in west Steamboat that would be funded by property tax

September 2012: City presents new idea to raze Iron Horse Inn and replace it with new police station at a cost no greater than $7 million.

October 2012: Council decides to spare Iron Horse, but moves to start negotating sale of existing police headquarters to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger

November 2012: City expands search for new police station building location.

December 2012: Opposition grows to proposed sale of building before new police station location identified

December 2012: City holds open house and reveals it wants to temporarily house police department at Iron Horse while other building locations pursued

February 2013: City Council scraps proposed sale of existing building after it learns cost of temporarily locating police at Iron Horse is much higher than anticipated

May 2013: Council votes unanimously that new police station is needed

August 2013: City eyes Rita Valentine Park as police station site

September 2013: City no longer wants to build at Rita Valentine because of logistic concerns, community criticism

June 2014: City Council picks top 3 building sites that include YVMC site, Fox Creek and U.S. Highway 40 site south of Hampton Inn

January 2014: Council approves conceptual design for 15,000-square-foot station but can’t agree on building site

January 2014: Several council members express interest in involving public more in police station planning