Our view: ‘This ship is sailing …’ | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: ‘This ship is sailing …’

At issue:

After some rocky negotiations, it now appears Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs are finally agreed on plans for a shared law enforcement facility.

Our view:

A shared facility has long been the preferred strategy for solving our law enforcement facilities problems, and we salute city and county officials for coming together to make the plan a reality.

It appears we’re finally on the verge of realizing a plan to build a new shared law enforcement facility that will serve as home to both the Routt County Sheriff’s Office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

During a joint meeting March 14, city council members and Routt County commissioners signaled their approval of a conceptual layout detailing a $16.7 million shared facility next to the Routt County Jail.

Even more encouraging, it now appears city and county officials are tantalizingly close to an agreement on the final cost-sharing breakdown for the endeavor, close enough that Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan declared during the March 14 meeting, “Bottom line, we’re building a building. This ship is sailing tonight.”

Pending resolution of the cost-sharing details — the amount remaining at issue is about $500,000, less than 3 percent of the total project cost — construction on the 23,248-square-foot facility is expected to begin in May 2018.

We think this is a tremendously positive development, both for the two law enforcement agencies involved and the two communities they serve.

Most obviously, the shared facility will ultimately save taxpayers’ money by eliminating unnecessary redundancies, such as maintaining two workout facilities and two evidence storage areas.

But more important than the money we stand to save, we feel the shared facility will immeasurably improve communication, collaboration and camaraderie between the officers and deputies who staff Routt County’s two largest law enforcement organizations, and in our view, this can only lead to a stronger law-enforcement presence in the Yampa Valley — a positive for us all.

And now, with the conceptual layout on the table, it seems the potential for such collaboration will be even greater than we’d imagined.

Police Chief Cory Christensen noted during the March 14 joint meeting that the building has even more shared spaces than originally envisioned. He added he was most excited about “sharing a wall” with Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins.

“We’ll get to see each other every single day and talk to each other,” Christensen said.

And in a county and city where sheriffs and police chiefs have not always worked smoothly together, such day-to-day interaction and collaboration between sheriff and police chief can be seen as nothing but a welcome development.

As previously noted, the road from there to here has not been without pitfalls. Only 14 months ago, it appeared the idea for a shared facility was on the verge of falling apart when the county signaled its intention to pull out of negotiations altogether due to funding issues.

But recognizing that a shared facility was the option preferred both by a citizens committee formed in 2015 to study the issue and by the community at-large, city and county officials returned to the table, and now it appears Corrigan’s metaphorical “ship” is ready to leave the harbor.

We couldn’t be more pleased.

Tremendous credit is due to city and county officials, as well as the leaders, officers and deputies who make up the police department and the sheriff’s office. Despite their obviously similarities, they are different organizations with different missions, and we salute their willingness to meld those missions in the interest of better serving the public.

We also gratefully acknowledge the work of the 2015 citizens committee, which labored for months to arrive at an innovative solution, then stuck by its recommendation, even when it had begun to look like a pipe dream.

The most gratifying goals are often reached by way of the most difficult paths, and we commend our city and county leaders for recognizing the potential and staying the course.

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