Steamboat City Council IDs list of projects for priority funding

Steamboat Springs Public Works employee Eric Heintz washes the sidewalks in downtown Steamboat Springs. Steamboat Springs City Council has identified public works projects as its first priority. l John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

In preparation for a budget meeting Oct. 5, Steamboat Springs City Council members laid out a list of projects they see as the most and least important for funding for the next several years.

Each of the city’s department heads ranked the list of projects, and City Council stuck closely to their recommendation. Council members and directors ranked the grit dump — which involves emptying out waste from the Steamboat Springs Wastewater Plant and Public Works facilities and disposing of them properly — as first funding priority, at $950,000.

Public Works Director Jon Snyder said while such a project is vitally important, it has been difficult to find a contractor for the project due to costs increasing each year.

“Currently it gets sprayed out and then it goes into a road side ditch behind the public works shop,” Snyder said. “That is not appropriate or responsible at all, this would take it to the sanitary sewer.”

Right behind the grit dump, staff members ranked Soda Creek Bridges and Yampa River Forest Restoration, at $435,000; Steamboat Springs Transit bus refurbishment, at $160,000; and the central fire station construction, at $17,483,871, as high priorities for 2022.

Tuesday’s meeting was a first step in reviewing projects of importance, and council members did not take a vote or make any finalized decisions.

While all council members agreed the grit dump was a high priority, many also raised concerns over its high price and wanted to consider whether it, or other projects, could be funded with stimulus money from the federal government, which the city has received $3.5 million from.

“For me, I’d rather have a full idea of all the stimulus dollars that we have available and have a fully developed list of all the projects that we could consider for stimulus money before we spend that much money on one project,” Council President Jason Lacy said.

Council members also expressed disagreements over whether they should fund repairs to the roof of current fire station, housed at 840 Yampa St., as the city’s plan is to sell that location to help cover costs of moving to their new location, which is still under discussion. Although the repairs are in the proposed budget for 2023 to 2027, council members said they felt it was important to have the discussion now as they may be selling the building before then.

“We’ve all agreed that we’re going to sell 840 Yampa, and what kind of message does it send to our community if we’re spending all this money on a building we’re going to sell,” council member Sonja Macys said. “These repairs are planned for way beyond when I think we should be holding onto this asset.”

In contrast, Lacy, an attorney, said most commercial contracts require a current landlord to cover repairs of a building before they sell the building or try to require a renter to cover them.

“It’s pretty typical for landlords to take care of the capital improvements,” City Manager Gary Suiter said. “You don’t rent someone an apartment and ask them to fix the roof.”

Projects were ranked on a list of criteria including satisfaction of legal/contractual obligations, health and safety, fiscal efficiency, aligning with council goals and policies, community benefit and private funding.

Council and staff ranked 30 projects that they said needed funding in the next several years, then added projects that are important but not immediate, and ranked improvements to Rita Valentine Dog Park towards the bottom of that list, which Steamboat Digs Dogs President Kathy Connell told council members she believed was a misjudgment.

“As Rita Valentine has been developed into a dog park, people have come, and we’ve been trying to convince you all of how many cars are up there in the parking lot,” Connell told council members. “I do not believe this criteria shows that.”

Ulrich Salzgeber, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, also spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting to tell council members that he believes it is the busiest park in town, and that its repairs should be a more immediate issue.

“It is jaw-dropping, no matter what time of the day you go, that park is continuously full,” Salzgeber said.

After hearing their comments, council member Michael Buccino said using the park for a community amphitheater, which Steamboat Creates has proposed, would move the project up for him.

“I’m encouraged that we would use Rita Valentine Park for more than just dogs,” Buccino said. “Something like an amphitheater for the whole community moves that up in my mind.”

Council will have their first discussion Oct. 5.

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