Our View: Collaboration makes sense | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Collaboration makes sense

At issue:

The county has announced it is interested in collaborating on a shared law enforcement facility west of town.

Our view:

This proposal has the potential to save taxpayers money and is worth considering

The announcement last week that the Routt County Commission was interested in possibly collaborating with the city of Steamboat Springs on a shared facility or campus to house the police department, the sheriff’s office and an expanded communications center was a welcome development.

With the city still searching for a suitable police station building site, there’s still plenty of time to consider the possibility of sharing land acquisition and building costs to construct a facility that would meet both the city’s and county’s needs and save taxpayers money in the process. For example, the departments could be housed in two separate wings of a larger building with a shared conference room, workout facility and an armory, as suggested by Commissioner Cari Hermacinski.

A five-acre parcel of land, known as the Klein property, located west of the Routt County Jail, has been identified as a possible building site for the facility. The piece of property was included in the city’s initial list of potential police station sites but never surfaced as one of the top contenders.

The same piece of property was identified in 2009 as a viable location for constructing a new station if voters had approved the Steamboat 700 housing development west of town. The project was halted when voters rejected the ballot issue and the economy began to falter.

Now six years later, with the economy improving, the city still seeking a site for a new police station and the sheriff’s office and communications center operating out of tight quarters, it seems like an opportune time to revisit the idea of building a facility west of town in close proximity to the Routt County Jail and the Justice Center.

The city and county already have collaborated successfully on a number of projects, most recently working together with the Steamboat Springs School District, the Steamboat Chamber and Resort Association and Yampa Valley Electric Association to improve broadband service in the area through the Northwest Colorado Broadband, Inc. It’s that type of model, where public entities pool resources to accomplish a shared goal, that could be applied to construction of a state-of-the-art facility or campus that could be shared by city and county law enforcement.

We realize there are pros and cons to sharing a building especially when you involve two different departments — one run by an elected official, who serves at the will of Routt County voters, and the other led by a civil servant hired to serve the residents of Steamboat Springs. At first glance, it would appear the positives and potential cost-savings to taxpayers outweigh the negatives but we understand there’s a lot of vetting left to do and we don’t claim to be experts in law enforcement operations.

When asked about the prospect of collaborating with the county on a shared law enforcement facility, City Manager Deb Hinsvark deferred to the future wishes of a still-to-be-appointed citizens committee that City Council plans to appoint to help it determine the scope of the police station project and pick a possible location. Hinsvark stated in a Feb. 5 article in the Steamboat Today, “I have a feeling we’re going to use a community committee to find a police station site, and we’ll go wherever that committee tells us to go, even if it is west.”

We firmly believe a shared county/city project on the west side of Steamboat should be among the options discussed by the citizens committee once it convenes later this month. In the meantime, we’d like to see the county and city do their due diligence in researching a collaborative proposal that could be presented to the committee and members of the public for their review and input.

In our estimation, a shared project would allow both government entities to combine their resources to realize efficiencies and save money especially when it comes to parking, training rooms, a reception area and a communications center. The city and the county owe it to local taxpayers to explore every possible option and find a way to collaborate if it will save money and eliminate costly duplication of services.

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