During lengthy discussion, Steamboat City Council weighs sale of downtown emergency services building | SteamboatToday.com

During lengthy discussion, Steamboat City Council weighs sale of downtown emergency services building

Scott Franz

— During their more than hourlong discussion Tuesday night about the sale of Steamboat Springs’ downtown emergency services building, some City Council members simplified their complex conversation with a series of dueling analogies.

"I’m not going to sell my house just because a nice family wants to move in," council member Walter Magill said.

Earlier, Magill said that he didn’t think he had enough money to buy a new house and that he wouldn’t sell his existing one before he knew where he was moving to.

A majority of council members had a different view.

Council member Scott Myller said it would be a great deal to sell the house to the nice family because the price and the timing is right.

"If we love this deal and we love what we can do for this community, I say we go find an apartment," he said.

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Myller added that the new tenants would be a better fit for the neighborhood, and he’d be happy to move into the apartment for as many as three years until he could build the ideal replacement home.

The city’s emergency services building at 840 Yampa St. is the house. BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger are the nice family. And the apartment is the Iron Horse Inn.

The City Council on Tuesday endorsed by a 5-2 vote the first reading of a contract to sell the city’s downtown emergency services building to the triumvirate of local outdoor retailers for $2.1 million.

Supporters of the sale said it is necessary to help jump-start a revitalization effort on Yampa Street and to establish larger, more efficient headquarters for its downtown police officers and firefighters.

Supporters also said the transaction will help keep a growing company in Steamboat.

City officials said Big Agnes employs 64 people and is an important part of Steamboat’s economy.

Owner Bill Gamber told the council the real estate transaction will allow him to consolidate his staff that is housed in four locations across town and add a new retail presence on Yampa Street.

"They’re a good, energetic group that will be shopping downtown," Gamber said about his employees. "Our hope is that we will expand."

Magill and council member Cari Hermacinski were the only members on the dais to oppose the sale of the building to Gamber.

Both argued the city should not spend an estimated $7 million to $9 million of its unallocated reserves to embark on the project in an uncertain economy and also before it has a solid plan to relocate the emergency services.

Hermacinski said the city has been saving up its unallocated reserve funds specifically for 2013 and not for a new public safety campus.

"We knew that was going to be the year the capital fund would have large, regular transfers and the year the Iron Horse Inn would start to drag on the general fund," she said about 2013, adding that the reserves should be used on identified deferred maintenance to existing city buildings. "I think it’s wise for us to consider this sale triggers the spending of those reserves when we have a lot of things the city is going to be needing to pay for in the next five years."

If the sale of the downtown public safety building is approved next month on second reading, the city plans to invest an estimated $113,000 to retrofit the Iron Horse Inn into a police station, and move the police force into that temporary headquarters sometime next year until a new headquarters is built.

Many council members, including President Bart Kounovsky, said city staff still needs to answer several questions about the relocation proposals before the council can approve the final reading of the sale.

"It’s a big decision and a big discussion," Kounovsky said. "I’m OK with the price on the sale. I am a little leery of the details of the back end, including the actual costs for where we’re going to go."

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Steamboat Springs Public Safety Director Joel Rae outlined four final proposals for the city to relocate emergency services off of Yampa Street.

Loose ends the council identified included determining whether the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District will commit to sharing the cost of a proposed second fire station in west Steamboat, what the city will pay in annual maintenance costs to temporarily house its police force at the Iron Horse Inn while a new station is constructed, and whether a parcel of land near the aging hotel can be secured to house that new station.

The council agreed to delay the second and final reading of the contract until Jan. 22, after city officials have a chance to provide more information about the relocation proposals council first received last week.

"Their discomfort is in that there are still loose ends," Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Rae said he was hopeful council would be able to make a decision on the relocation proposals and then sell 840 Yampa St. at the Jan. 22 meeting.

"It makes sense to them, and it makes sense to us," he said about council’s commitment to settling on a relocation plan before approving the second reading of the sale. "We’re getting closer to having that figured out."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com