Lyman Orton: Ask right question
I read in Steamboat Today about the preliminary denial by the Army Corps of Engineers to allow the Routt County commissioners to fill in a wetland west of town to construct the now infamous, but not yet built, justice center.
The commissioners have ordered more costly studies in an attempt to override that denial and continue to cite the greater cost of building in downtown as their primary reason for pursuing the west location.
Why is no one asking the question this community should be well-prepared to tackle: What does the new justice center have in common with the original Steamboat Springs High School plan before the Ten Plus Two group of citizens got involved? Like that original high school plan, put forth by “experts,” the west of town justice center, as well as the originally designed downtown building, is far more than this community really needs.
The battle over the high school location divided the community until the collaborative Ten Plus Two Committee re-opened the whole process, invited in all residents, and in the end did what the “experts” said could not be done — they renovated the existing high school to meet the community’s needs at a significant cost savings to the taxpayers and prevented a sprawl-causing monster on the edge of town.
I have talked to attorneys in town who say the justice center design got blown way out of proportion to what is really needed. The state standards — frequently cited as the reason for the size and cost — are actually only guidelines. No one denies the need for more space for county justice proceedings. But let the common-sense residents of this community come together again — and yes that costs money on the heels of two design processes that were deeply flawed — and I’ll bet they come up with a fine, functional and fitting design in the downtown location that ends up saving millions of dollars.
If any community can do it, we can. After all, we did it before with the school to overwhelming support of voters. Ask the county commissioners to calm their anger, exert some statesmanship, stop with the retributions such as denying the ski jump money, and join with the City Council and residents to come up with a final solution that meets the justice needs for years to come at a reasonable price and design.
The voters will support that just as they did the high school and we’ll have a beautiful building that we can be proud of, afford and that will continue to anchor the heart of our community, our downtown.
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