New Steamboat City Hall building up for discussion

Built in 1961, The Steamboat Springs City Hall building may be in its last year of existence.
Scott Franz/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Within the year, the Steamboat Springs City Hall on 10th Street will likely be demolished. 

During a work session on Tuesday, June 14, Steamboat Springs City Council members discussed the plan to replace the city hall building that was built 61 years ago in 1961.

Assuming all goes to plan, razing the old building would make way for a new city hall and fire station, which according to the city’s current plan, would be built simultaneously. The new fire station would be built where the current city hall building sits on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street, while the new city hall would be built on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 10th Street.  

Construction on both buildings is tentatively scheduled for spring 2023 and would last an estimated 14 months.

According to Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson, the current city hall building needs to be replaced because of the presence of asbestos and an aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. 

The city worked with Anderson Hallas Architects who conducted a space-needs analysis that determined the square footage needed to serve the 12 departments and 68 employees that will work inside the new building, while also accounting for the 18 new positions expected to be created within the next 20 years.

The architects presented plans between 15,476 square feet and 16,670 square feet, with another option for a 13,106 square foot building that would require putting the Planning and Public Works departments in another location as part of a hypothetical Development Review Center, but the city staff advised against that idea because excluding those departments wouldn’t lower the square footage and costs enough to make it enticing. 

“I think that, from an architect standpoint, I would approve to move forward because I definitely want to stay on task,” said Council Member Michael Buccino. “I think the issue for me really is how we’re going to pay for it.”

Wember Inc., who are also the owner’s rep for the new Routt County Health and Human Services building, advised the city to expect the project to cost about $850 per square foot, a number that Leeson said accounts for all construction costs associated with the project.  

The expected cost of the project is around $13 million, based on a 15,200 square-foot project.

The city’s finance department presented three different strategies for financing the project. One strategy would be to finance the whole amount with either a 20 or 25-year loan. Another strategy was to finance $7 million towards the project and pay the remaining $6 million cash up front. Paying the whole amount in cash was also considered.

Council Member Heather Sloop brought up concerns that the costs may be higher than the estimated $13 million, citing rising construction costs and interest rates. 

“What if they come out with numbers that are going to shoot the moon here?” Sloop said. “When’s the kill switch?” she said, asking if there was a price tag that could potentially change everyone’s mind on whether to continue moving forward. 

“It appears as though we’re not in a place where the Fed’s gonna stop raising interest rates,” Sloop said. 

“Which is why I’d like to go to market as soon as possible with this,” replied Kim Weber, the city’s financial director. 

Buccino expressed his support saying the city has about $30 million in reserves. 

“There’s time to spend the money that we have and still be fiscally responsible,” Buccino said. 

Sloop also asked staff if they could prepare a plan B, or “skinny switch” as she called it, in case costs rise above an acceptable level. 

Leeson said there are grant opportunities available as long as the plan includes a publicly accessible community room, which the plan has a 500 square foot space designated for that purpose. 

City Council still has not decided on how to spend the $3.3 million given to the city from the American Recovery Plan Act, but city staff say they recommended the ARPA funds be used for the new city hall building because spending the whole amount on a single project that doesn’t generate revenue would be the simplest and cheapest way of using the funds because of federal reporting requirements.   

Canceling the new city hall project would mean the city would have to find a different site for a new fire station. The downtown fire station on Yampa Street has already been sold for $5.5 million with the expectation that early next year the city would start constructing a new station on the plot where city hall resides.  

The city’s new complex also overlaps some of the public parking spaces on 10th street.  It’s not known exactly how many spots will be removed,  

“We still need to work through those details, but we can assure you that there will be a lot of spaces lost,” said Leeson. “Full transparency,” he added. 

“The goal is for there to be less cars downtown over time, not more,” said City Council President Robin Crossan.

The new city hall building would have a locker room that might encourage employees to bike to work.  

City Council may be making a decision on the city hall project during their regular meeting on Monday, June 20. 

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