Steamboat City Council approves police station design, but leaves meeting no closer to building site | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council approves police station design, but leaves meeting no closer to building site

Scott Franz

— A slim majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council has approved a conceptual design for a new 15,058-square-foot police station, but the city still lacks a place to build it.

In one of the longest and liveliest meetings in recent council history, the council continued to show it was divided over how quickly the city should move forward with acquiring a piece of property on which to build the station.

It also realized it may have to go back to the drawing board and consider a larger selection of sites for the station after conflicts of interest and other complications kept the council from gaining consensus and moving forward on one of the body’s two top sites.

Council members Kenny Reisman, Walter Magill and Scott Myller wanted to keep the project moving forward after years of discussions and planning.

“I see this as all about a question of need,” Reisman said before voting in favor of the station’s design. “This community needs a new police station and public safety building, it is plain and simple. If you tour that (current police headquarters) it is just about impossible to come out of there thinking otherwise.”

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He labeled the construction of a new station as urgent.

Council members Sonja Macys and Scott Ford opposed the adoption of the design and continued to push the council to consider slowing down the planning and getting the public more involved.

They both were critical of the recent planning for the station and ultimately declined to endorse the station’s design or to move forward with any real estate negotiations on the two properties the city has been vetting for the station.

Macys said the city should consider using a public process similar to the one that was used to construct Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Ford said he wanted the project to be less staff driven and more public driven.

Council President Bart Kounovsky and member Tony Connell stepped down from the police station discussions again because they have conflicts of interest regarding the potential building site on U.S. Highway 40 just south of the Hampton Inn.

The meeting took an interesting turn late Tuesday when the council was set to go into executive session to discuss the possible purchase of a police station site.

Because Ford and Macys did not want to go behind closed doors to discuss the possible purchase, the other three council members did not have enough votes to do it.

Instead, they discussed the sites in public.

The council and the public learned the asking land cost for the U.S. 40 site is $1.3 million, while the asking price for the Fox Creek site is $975,000.

After hearing about pros and cons and potential land costs for both the sites, council members Reisman, Myller and Magill said they preferred the U.S. 40 site for a number of reasons including the potential to expand on the property in the future.

They also started to let City Manager Deb Hinsvark know how much they would be willing to spend on the property.

Ford and Macys were not ready to commit to any site and wanted to slow down the police station talks.

Macys also pointed out the real estate decision was about to be made by a small group of council members.

Earlier in the evening, Ford said the speed and urgency surrounding the project concerned him.

Pressed by other council members if she ultimately would continue to oppose the police station project, Macys said she supports having the city build a new police station to replace the outdated headquarters on Yampa Street.

But she said she wanted the city to take a new approach to the project and that she continues to lose confidence in how it is being planned.

“I think it’s been mishandled from the start,” she said.

The three council members who preferred the U.S. 40 site wanted to keep pushing forward.

“The reason it’s urgent is because the need is there and it’s been ignored, and we cannot ignore it anymore,” Reisman said. “I sit here really proud of the fact we can build this building without borrowing a dime. It’s remarkably prudent of us.”

When the council realized it would not be able to secure four votes needed to move forward on a purchase of either site, some members suggested it was time to open back up the site search.

Magill said he thought the city was back to 29 sites.

Myller held up his iPad showing the city’s website of all of the potential police station locations.

The six-hour meeting then adjourned minutes before 11 p.m.

“I think the council is going to have to regenerate this because I’m not sure how they want to go forward,” Hinsvark said Wednesday when asked what the city’s next step on the project would be. “We’ll move forward. The community needs a new police station. This is a big action (the council) is taking, and they need to be 100 percent comfortable with it.”

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