Police station committee arrives at building recommendation
Steamboat Springs — The group of citizens that is helping the city of Steamboat Springs build a new police station wants the city and the county to pursue a joint public safety facility on the west end of town.
In the eyes of the committee, the construction of a combined city and county facility is a better alternative to the city building a new station on its own or renovating its current police headquarters on Yampa Street.
The recommendation is a big departure from the final building options the Steamboat Springs City Council was considering in January before it failed to reach a consensus on a location and turned to the citizens committee for help.
Committee members believe putting the city’s police force, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office and any other local law enforcement agencies under the same roof will save taxpayers money, create efficiencies and bring the law enforcement agencies closer together.
The sheriff’s office and the city’s police department both are seeking more space, and there is a 15,200-square-foot building footprint next to the Routt County Jail that could potentially support a two-story public safety building with shared space.
Committee member Gary Cogswell said Monday he was on the fence about the idea of a joint facility here until he went and toured the Moffat County Public Safety Center in Craig where three law enforcement agencies work under the same roof.
“That tour was overwhelming,” Cogswell said. “It was an absolutely compelling argument for combining not only police and sheriff, but the integration of communications center and the state patrol. The communication level and the interaction. The employee attitudes. It was impressive.”
Tom Leeson, a former city planning director who serves on the police station committee, said he sees the benefit of having a station more centrally located than west Steamboat.
But he felt there is greater value to the community in a shared facility to the west if it is done right.
A majority of committee members believe that putting the police force on the west end of town in the periphery of where a majority of emergency calls originate won’t negatively impact police operations.
At previous meetings, they have pointed out that officers are regularly out in the community on patrol and can file reports from their vehicles.
“There has been no compelling reason that I have heard during this discovery process to call (west Steamboat) a not optimal location,” committee member Nancy Kramer said.
Judy Tremaine was the only police station committee member to express significant concern about locating the police station in west Steamboat.
She questioned whether the building location next to the jail was big enough to accommodate both the police and the sheriff’s office, and she reiterated city staff concerns about travel time from west Steamboat to downtown and the mountain in the event of a serious emergency.
“Response time, in my experience, is everything,” she said.
The committee’s strong recommendation for a joint facility does come with some caveats.
Members want a shared facility only if the city and the county design it to promote interaction between their law enforcement agencies.
Some committee members also believe the city should consider installing a satellite police office downtown or on the mountain if the station moves west.
In addition, some committee members want the city and county to consider purchasing a parcel of land near the sheriff’s office for future expansion needs.
Committee members plan to continue meeting to come up with a plan B in case their elected officials cannot move forward with a shared facility.
The committee recognizes a lot of details would have to be worked out.
“Development of a fair and equitable (operations and maintenance) agreement is going to be challenging, but I do think it is worth the effort,” Kramer said. “It will take strong will and leadership, both in elected officials, law enforcement agencies and the management of the city and county to make this (combined facility) work.”
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