Yampa Valley Medical Center withdraws from police station real estate talks | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Medical Center withdraws from police station real estate talks

Scott Franz

Traffic moves through the intersection of Pine Grove Road and Central Park Drive. The site owned by Yampa Valley Medical Center is one of three that the Steamboat City Council has directed city staff to investigate to possibly build a new police station.

— Yampa Valley Medical Center no longer is entertaining a proposal to allow the city of Steamboat Springs to build a new police station on the hospital’s lot at Pine Grove Road and Central Park Drive.

The decision, caused in part by the hospital’s hesitancy to give away half of a lot it intends to build on someday, leaves the city without one of its top two potential building sites for the station.

It also could delay the council’s consideration of building locations and a public discussion about the design of the station until at least January.

Since February, the city has been talking to the hospital about the possibility of co-developing the hospital’s site in a deal that the city and the hospital initially thought could offer benefits to both sides and save them development costs.

The hospital site was the only site on the city’s list of 29 vetted building locations that the city did not list any “cons” for.

However, hospital CEO Frank May said Monday that he and the hospital’s board of trustees decided to withdraw from the talks because the deal morphed into more of a real estate transaction than a plan focused on the hospital’s mission statement to provide quality health care for the community.

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He said the hospital’s future growth also was a factor in the decision.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the best possible use of that space is going to be,” May said. “Just knowing that health care is changing and growing, it’s nice to have some additional space to use in the future. With the deal we were talking about with the city, about half of that lot was going to be used for the police station. We just didn’t know if that was going to be the best thing for the community long term with the health care needs we have.”

The decision to withdraw from the talks was made by the hospital’s board of trustees Thursday evening. Their meetings are not public.

The council was scheduled to meet Tuesday night in executive session to discuss the possible purchase of a building site and to talk about the design of the station during a public presentation.

The hospital’s withdrawal threw a wrench in the plan.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark emailed the City Council on Friday morning announcing the hospital’s withdrawal from the process and the abrupt removal of the police station discussions from Tuesday’s agenda.

In addition to the YVMC site, the other sites the city has been vetting to bring to the council for consideration include a site on U.S. Highway 40 just south of the Hampton Inn and a site called Fox Creek just behind Western Convenience on Hilltop Parkway.

Hinsvark suggested last week the cost of the Fox Creek site could keep it from being selected.

She identified the hospital site and the Hampton Inn site as still being in the running.

Hinsvark said Monday that despite the latest real estate developments, city staff is moving ahead with the project and wants to discuss it with the council in January.

She called the recent development with the hospital disappointing but understandable.

“The hospital has to do what they think is best for them,” Hinsvark said. “I can’t argue with that. “

She said the city still has other properties to explore and it may consider reopening the search and looking at other sites if needed.

Council members had different reactions to the removal of the police station discussion from Tuesday’s agenda.

Council President Bart Kounovsky sounded unfazed by the development and said he was confident the proposal would come back to the council after the first of the year.

Council member Scott Ford said he was concerned that it now appears the council will have only one viable building location to choose from.

“I will struggle if all we have left is one site for the police station,” Ford said.

Ford said he wanted the council to still discuss the project Tuesday, calling its removal from the agenda “disappointing.”

He added he thought the latest developments could create an opportunity for the city and the council to hit “reset” on the project.

He suggested the city look into the possibility of bringing on a buyer’s agent and also giving the public more time to get involved and engaged with the project.

Council members have held a variety of opinions about the police station, with only slim majorities agreeing on topics as important as what building locations to look at and how involved the city’s police chief should be in the project.

In a 3-2 vote in June, the council voted to identify the current three top building locations.

Reisman and council members Scott Myller and Walter Magill favored the list of three preferred building locations and kept city staff moving ahead on the police station project.

Council members Sonja Macys and Ford did not support the list of preferred sites and questioned the timing of the discussion.

Kounovsky and council member Tony Connell did not participate in the site discussion because they each had business connections to some of the potential building locations. Connell is chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees.

The city has been pursuing a new police station to replace its cramped station on Yampa Street for more than two years.

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