Police station committee learns about pros and cons of joint public safety facility
Steamboat Springs — As this city’s police station planning committee considers the prospect of having the Steamboat Springs Police Department and Routt County Sheriff’s Office work together in the same building someday, it has a test case to look at just 42 miles to the west.
Moffat County’s top law enforcement officials traveled to Steamboat Monday to talk about what it’s like for multiple agencies to work together under the same roof.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta and Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume had very positive things to say about working side by side with the Colorado State Patrol in a 43,109-square-foot public safety facility that includes 11,309 square feet of shared space.
As the men discussed the pros and cons of their facility, they often joked with each other and clearly showed they have a close working relationship.
They said their arrangement has brought the agencies closer together, saved taxpayer money and resulted in other efficiencies.
“We’re like a big family,” Vanatta said. “We’re going to have differences, but you work on them and you communicate with each other.”
The agencies are more likely to share information, confront each other about rumors and work out issues if their offices are down the hall from each other as opposed to separate buildings, Vanatta and Hume said.
They share interview rooms, a workout facility, training rooms and garage space, among other things.
The citizens committee, which is helping to build a new police station here in Steamboat, was interested in hearing from Vanatta and Hume because the committee is exploring the possibility of recommending the construction of some form of a joint public safety campus in west Steamboat.
The option is one of many being considered.
The Steamboat Police Department and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office are both looking to expand, and some community members and elected officials have expressed an interest in exploring a potential partnership in west Steamboat.
Vanatta and Hume said there were some downsides to sharing space, but they’ve been able to overcome them.
Vanatta said one challenge has been for Moffat County’s elected officials to decide how much each agency should pay for things including rent and maintenance.
He said it hasn’t been as simple as basing the cost solely on the amount of square footage each agency has in the building.
He also suggested politics can get involved in the spending decisions because they must be made jointly by county commissioners and the city council.
The agencies have also outgrown the facility and have found it hard to expand further at the current site.
In addition, Vanatta said the facility in Craig was successful because it was designed to be shared from the start.
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins has expressed strong interest in the idea of sharing as much as 6,900 square feet of space with this city’s police department, but Steamboat’s city officials have appeared more hesitant to support sharing anything more than a workout facility.
At a recent meeting with Wiggins, City Manager Deb Hinsvark and Police Chief Joel Rae said that “in the end, if the city found areas to share in its current programmed campus, it would be (a 400-square-foot workout area).”
At Monday’s meeting, police station committee member Tom Leeson brought up the city’s apparent resistance to a joint facility.
“Is it politics, or do you guys have legitimate operational concerns, because from what we’ve heard (sharing a facility) sounds pretty good,” Leeson said to Steamboat Police Captain Jerry Stabile.
Stabile said part of the hesitancy to endorse a shared facility is the unknown.
“There is not a guarantee that if we (share a facility) we will have that relationship” that they have in Craig, Stabile said. “I think it’s something to explore, and I think it’s very fortunate they have two men with that close working relationship, and the design is adding to that relationship. We’ll never know until we’re in it.”
Stabile added there are operational concerns about being located in the west side of town opposed to a central location, and he said there have been some previous leaders of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office in the last 23 years who have “put a major bad taste in some of our mouths.”
At the end of Monday’s meeting, the police station committee resolved to host Wiggins and Stabile at its next meeting to discuss further the idea of a joint facility.
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