Our view: Nothing’s ever easy | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Nothing’s ever easy

On Monday, the police station citizens committee met for the first time, less than a week after the council conducted candidate interviews and selected seven local residents and one alternate to serve as members of the new advisory group.

We strongly support the City Council’s decision to appoint a citizens committee to help them plan for a new police station. It’s a step we’ve been advocating since the city hosted a public meeting announcing an earlier proposal to build the station on the edge of Rita Valentine Park.

At that hearing, it was evident city leaders were out of step with public sentiment and needed to involve the community more in their decision-making process. It took several more missteps before the council voted to slow things down and involve a citizens group to help them determine the right next steps for the project.

Initially, we were pessimistic about the prospect of attracting strong candidates to serve on the committee. Who would want to meet during the summer to discuss a project that has hit one roadblock after another and has been mired with bad publicity almost from the start?

We were proven wrong when 23 people stepped forward to serve. The number and calibre of candidates was impressive, and it gives us hope that maybe uncontested City Council and School Board races might be a thing of the past if there is this much citizens interest in serving on a police station committee.

City Council interviewed the pool of candidates last week and selected well, choosing a diverse group of volunteers that represent various business backgrounds, interests and ages. The committee members bring different, but complementary, skills sets and experience to the table. We think these individuals, working together on behalf of the community, have the influence and insight to drive the future of this project in a positive direction.

John Kerst will serve as chairman of the committee, and we can’t think of a better person to lead this group. Not only is Kerst a well-respected business and community leader, but he has a track record for getting large projects, such as the Yampa Valley Medical Center, completed. He also has a reputation for generating strong community buy-in along the way. He lends credibility to the police station project just by being involved, as do others named to the committee.

He showed his strength of leadership by bringing up the “900-pound gorilla in the room” at the committee’s first meeting Monday when he referenced the upcoming investigation of the police department’s chief and deputy chief about allegations of misconduct. He noted the current circumstances and admitted it would probably make the committee’s job more difficult. At this point, it’s too early to try to predict the recommendations the committee might make, but we remain convinced the process is definitely headed in the right direction.

Appointing a citizens committee and involving a broad spectrum of the public from the start is a smart way to go about making decisions that involve large community projects and major capital spending. It worked when it came to building a new library and a new hospital, and we think it has the potential to work for the police station project as well.

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