Citizens committee could greatly impact police station project in Steamboat

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

— The Steamboat Springs City Council next month could initiate a new chapter in what has become a long and bumpy quest to build a new police station.

After failing to get any consensus on the best place to build the station Jan. 7, the council last week voted unanimously to soon discuss the possible formation of a citizens committee to help plan for the new public safety facility.

The council will decide how it wants to move forward with the committee and what the committee’s role should be at a meeting Feb. 24.

Some council members think the committee should have a broader role in the project and tackle things like financing of the station and its design, while others think the committee’s focus should be more limited to things like site selection.

Regardless, a majority of the council itself remains committed to building a new police station to replace the current one it thinks is cramped and outdated.

A citizens committee could greatly impact the police station project that has taken several twists and turns since it was introduced to the public in March 2012.

If the committee ends up having a broader role, some council members have suggested the group could go back to analyze several possibilities including sharing a public safety facility with other local government organizations or moving the police and fire stations off Yampa Street at the same time.

The committee also could first gauge the need for a new station.

Council member Scott Ford said he thinks everything should be on the table for the committee to consider.

“When you get citizens involved, you never lose,” Ford said.

Ford said he isn’t sure yet what the committee will look like, but he hopes that 15 years from now, the process is remembered as a good one.

“We’ve done this before, and we’ll do it again,” he said.

Some of the bigger projects that have been realized with the help of citizens committees in Steamboat include the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library and the renovation and expansion of Steamboat Springs High School.

After a bond initiative to fund the construction of a new high school away from its current location failed in the mid-1990s, the school district formed a citizens committee to recommend how to move forward.

The committee included opponents and proponents of the previous ballot initiative.

After getting the pulse of the community, it recommended the renovation of the existing high school campus and the project was carried out.

The board of directors for the Bud Werner Memorial Library also successfully used a citizens committee before making the decision to expand the library at its downtown location.

The Blue Ribbon Committee met twice each month for a year before recommending that the library be expanded.

A Site Planning Committee then created an action plan for the expansion project.

In recent years, the city itself also has successfully used citizens committees to help make big decisions.

It formed a task force to make recommendations on how to improve its aging stormwater infrastructure.

It also formed a committee to help the City Council decide how to spend millions of dollars of lodging tax revenue in the coming years.

After voters embraced the ballot initiative for the funding, two separate committees then were formed to recommend how the money should be spent on trails and Yampa Street improvements.

A police station citizens committee could be the biggest development in the project since the council canceled the sale of the existing police headquarters on Yampa Street to a triumvirate of outdoor manufacturers in February 2013 after a plan to temporarily locate the police force at the Iron Horse Inn suddenly fell apart.

After more setbacks since then that included a short-lived idea from the city to build the station at Rita Valentine Park, additional public involvement in the project appears to be the only thing that will be able to advance 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 last week.

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

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