Big decisions await Steamboat Springs City Council early in 2016 |

Big decisions await Steamboat Springs City Council early in 2016

A sketch shows what Yampa Street could look like with a promenade. Visions for additional sidewalks and infrastructure on Yampa date back at least three decades.
Courtesy Photo

Don’t expect any light agendas from the Steamboat Springs City Council in the early part of the New Year.

In the first half of of 2016, the council is set to make several big decisions that are poised to have major impacts on the city’s residents.

Construction of new facilities.

Expansions of existing ones.

The hiring of the city’s next top employee.

All these items and more will be under consideration in Citizens Hall before the snow begins to melt in the spring.

And the public will have several opportunities to weigh in at meetings and work sessions.

Here’s a look at some of the big items City Council will tackle in the first part of 2016.

Downtown overhaul

The council will continue its oversight of a multi-million-dollar overhaul of the downtown corridor Tuesday when it hears a presentation from city staff on proposed conceptual designs for improvements on Yampa Street.

The city is planning to host an open house on the topic Jan. 21 and have meetings with downtown stakeholders soon to discuss and develop plans.

The plans could be finalized in February and March, with construction set to begin in April or May.

In July, the council approved a $10.3 million plan to add new sidewalks, public restrooms and other basic infrastructure by the end of 2018.

The improvements, which encompass the entire downtown area, will be funded by a combination of grants, sidewalk assessments, franchise fees, certificates of participation and reserves from the city’s general fund.

The work downtown will be dependent on annual budget appropriations from the council.

Ice Arena

The council is set to decide whether to spend some of the city’s lodging tax revenue to help facilitate an expansion of the Howelsen Ice Arena.

The proposed project would include a second sheet of ice and a covered space other local athletes could use as a practice field.

City officials say the project has the potential to increase revenue at the facility, which currently requires a city subsidy.

Some council members have also been motivated to invest in the project by a $1 million donation offered by local philanthropists.

The council is eyeing a potential $750,000 contribution to the $2.5 million project.

The remaining funds would be supplied by private fundraising efforts and a state grant.

The council could begin to gain insight into what community members think about spending lodging tax funds for the project when it discusses the proposal Jan. 17.

A second sheet of ice at the Howelsen Ice Arena has not been identified as a top priority for the greater community, according to a recent community survey.

Only 17 percent of respondents said they felt adding the second sheet of ice was essential or very important.

Acquiring additional open space, improving Howelsen Park and building a recreation center all ranked significantly higher.

The survey did not account for the private fundraising that has been offered for the Ice Arena project or the multi-use component.

Police station

A recent development has again altered the course of the city’s nearly four-year-old quest to build a new headquarters for its police force to replace the cramped and outdated station on Yampa Street.

A citizens committee recommended the city partner with Routt County to construct a joint public safety facility next to the Routt County Jail.

However, Routt County commissioners recently called a time-out on the project due to limited funding and a perception that a sales tax to fund a portion of the project would not be approved by voters.

The development could spur the council to consider a plan B.

The citizens committee recommended that, in the event a shared facility could not be realized, the city should purchase a piece of land south of the Hampton Inn on U.S. Highway 40 and construct a new station there.

The council is expected to discuss the police station project early this year.

Police investigation report

New police chief Cory Christensen on Jan. 12 will present City Council with a more thorough summary of the recent internal police investigation that led to the departures of the city’s former police chief and deputy police chief.

The report is expected to address many questions the council and community still have regarding the findings of the investigation, which was launched after former officers and a police detective accused the top cops of creating a hostile work environment and engaging in heavy-handed policing.

The council ordered the new summary after several community members called on their elected officials to shed more light on the probe.

New city manager

Community members who have something to say about what qualifications and characteristics they want to see in the city’s next city manager can begin voicing their opinions Tuesday.

That’s when the council will kick off what is expected to be a five-month recruitment effort to find the city’s next top employee.

The council will specifically discuss a profile to advertise for the position.

Public comment will be accepted early in the council’s meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in Citizens Hall.

Howelsen Hill

Discussions about the future of Howelsen Hill will continue in early 2016.

City Council has expressed a desire to make changes to its joint use agreement with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Changes to the agreement are not mandatory unless the council decides it no longer wants to operate a ski area, something no council member has called for to date.

A public work session on the future of Howelsen is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 19.

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

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