City, county leaders expand child care center study to look for more potential locations
Commissioner Tim Corrigan suggested tearing up Sixth Street for new facility.
In a joint meeting Tuesday, March 15, city and county leaders agreed to continue studying a publicly built child care facility, looking beyond a cramped site in downtown Steamboat Springs for other potential parcels.
The Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners approved expanding the scope of a previous feasibility study for the child care center, looking at what the ideal size of a center might be if it didn’t have to fit into the county-owned location on the corner of Sixth and Oak streets.
The expanded study is also expected to look for other potential partnerships beyond the city and county governments and identify other available sites for a child care center.
“Rather than having us brainstorm (other potential sites), we could hire the consultants,” said Steamboat city manager Gary Suiter. “We can give them an inventory of sites, they could do an inventory of what is available and come back and report to us.”
The feasibility study initially explored how doable a facility built on land where the county is building a new Health and Human Services building would be. After each being presented the results of that study in recent weeks, both council and commissioners expressed doubt about the site, with commissioner Tim Redmond likening it to squeezing “15 pounds into a 10-pound bag.”
While the catalyst for the study — the county having land identified — has faded, both groups have said they want to continue to partner to address the issue.
“If we’re serious about partnering with you guys on doing something in the city, then maybe we have to pony up some land to make it happen,” said council member Michael Buccino. “I’m glad we got to where we are right now, but I really think that I’d like to see us do something together.”
Commissioners said the idea of building a facility on Sixth and Oak isn’t dead, and it also could be done at a later date. That said, they wanted to look at what other options were out there.
“Let’s look at what else is out there and if it’s determined in the end (Sixth and Oak) really is the best site that we have, I don’t think it’s off the table,” said commissioner Beth Melton.
The county doesn’t really own much land other than in the center of Steamboat, which includes the Historic Routt County Courthouse, the attached annex building and the site under construction across Sixth Street.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan lightly proposed the idea of tearing up part of Sixth Street, allowing for more space for the child care facility and creating an extended campus feel downtown.
“If the city would consider vacating Sixth Street between the alley and Oak, if that could happen, we could have enough area to work with,” Corrigan said.
When he said it, Corrigan admitted it likely wasn’t a popular idea, and Council president Robin Crossan immediately moved the conversation on without entertaining the idea. But council members Heather Sloop and Gail Garey both said it was an idea they hadn’t considered.
“That’s new, we’ve never heard that one before,” Sloop said.
After the meeting, Corrigan specified that his idea would only consume half the block, preserving access to the alley behind businesses on Lincoln Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets. It would also preserve parking and create a space that could be used during downtown community events, when the city often closes downtown streets.
In an interview Wednesday, March 16, Suiter said tearing up any street would require a feasibility study that would explore impacts on traffic, but he did not dismiss the idea.
Steamboat public works director Jon Snyder said Wednesday that if directed to explore the idea by council — something he noted they have not told him to do — it would start by counting the number of cars that use the road and assessing how that would be distributed to other streets.
“Off the top of my head, since Sixth Street is not a signalized intersection, it probably would not be nearly as impactful to close it,” Snyder said.
When looking for other parcels, the various parking lots the city owns are what come to mind for Suiter, though getting rid of a parking lot would also need to be studied.
Last week the city put land and a building on Yampa Street up for sale with a total asking price for the parcels of about $7 million. Suiter said this land has been discussed as a site for city services in the past, but council has repeatedly dismissed the idea, instead wanting to activate that part of town economically.
Proceeds from the land deals are also expected to be a significant part of the funding for the city’s new fire station and town hall project.
Buying a piece of land for the child care facility is also a possibility, Corrigan said.
“At the end of the day it’s just a dollar number,” Corrigan said. “If there’s property for sale out there that we could buy for a million dollars, that’s going to be the smaller part of the expense of building the building.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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