Routt County to conduct study in effort to land federal grant for asbestos cleanup at Royal Hotel site
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend $1,950 with an engineering firm, which has been tasked with designing an asbestos mitigation project for the burned-out Royal Hotel in Yampa.
The hope is the study will help the county tap into federal funds for the ultimate treatment of the debris left from the January 2015 fire that destroyed the 112-year-old landmark. But Tuesday’s vote doesn’t necessarily imply that the county is prepared to provide matching funds on any forthcoming grant.
“I’m comfortable moving ahead with this, but at the same time, us being the Board of Health and us being the responsible party for something that happened in a municipality is another thing,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “This doesn’t obligate us to whatever that process to move forward might be. Hopefully, there will be a level of cooperation.”
The engineering contract was awarded to the second-lowest bidder, Sunrise Environmental in Blackhawk.
The grant in question would be a federal Brownfields Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency channeled through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Board of Commissioners has a dual role as the county’s Board of Public Health.
No one was hurt in the fire that consumed the Royal Hotel on the night of Jan. 3, 2015, though, there were boarders there at the time. The blaze was thought to have been caused by a coal-burning furnace.
The fire left behind an unsightly void in place of a contemporary gathering place and a building that was built in 1903 in anticipation of the little town’s railroad boom. Yampa, in that era, was the gateway to the Yampa Valley. The Royal played host to the famous author Zane Grey, contained a drug store that shipped in ice cream from Denver and was also a winter boarding house to ranch children who spent much of the winter there to attend classes.
But the fire also left behind a problem.
Former county environmental health official Mike Zopf suspected that the ruins of the hotel contained asbestos and the CDPHE confirmed the presence of the carcinogen to building owner Reno “Bill” Ager in a May 7, 2015, letter. Ager has not responded to inquiries from reporters, but Yampa Mayor Tom Yackey told Steamboat Today at the time, that Ager indicated he was not prepared to take on the cleanup nor was the hotel insured.
Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Cari Hermacinski reiterated Tuesday that the CDPHE has given county officials “a high degree of confidence that the asbestos does not represent an urgent health issue at this time.”
In a similar vein, because the post office in Yampa is adjacent to the site of the burned hotel, the U.S. Postal Service persuaded the EPA to sample the air for signs that the asbestos was spreading, Hermacinski said, and found very little to no contamination.
The county sent requests for proposals on the design of the permanent asbestos mitigation project to 29 engineering firms, and six responded. The low bid lacked sufficient detail and was rejected. Other bids went as high as $6,556, and ranged from nearly $4,000 to $15,000.
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