Steamboat City Council won’t pursue new city hall
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Pilot & Today’s current headquarters at Elk River Road and U.S. Highway 40 is not destined to become Steamboat’s new city hall.
At a special meeting Monday where the city attorney had to make a trip back to his office across the street to review state laws and triple-check whether a close, consequential vote on the issue had indeed failed, the Steamboat Springs City Council narrowly decided against pursuing the newspaper building for new city offices.
The decision to pass on the real estate opportunity was not unanimous, and the council was almost evenly split on the issue.
Members who wanted to consider making an offer on the building thought the city might come out ahead financially instead of waiting to possibly build an entirely new building in the future.
Council members who opposed the purchase worried about the city’s current financial situation and thought the city had more pressing needs such as a new fire station.
They also worried the purchase of a new city hall could hurt the city’s ability to get tax increases passed for other needs such as improvements at Howelsen Hill.
Council members Kathi Meyer, Robin Crossan, Lisel Petis and Walter Magill wanted to meet behind closed doors Monday to discuss a potential offer on the building.
Meyer noted the city’s most recent hire had to work out of a space that used to be a conference room at the current city hall at 10th and Oak streets downtown.
“We are out of space,” she said.
Council members Jason Lacy, Scott Ford and Heather Sloop voted against an executive session to discuss the potential purchase of a new city hall at this time.
“From my perspective, I think this discussion is a bit of a distraction,” Ford said.
Ford said the city already owns 20,000 square feet of office space at its municipal airport that could become available at no cost to the city in the coming years if SmartWool stops using it.
He also said the city needs to show fiscal restraint at a time when the city might soon go to voters to ask for additional tax revenue for Howelsen Hill.
“The discussion of remodeling or expanding space in city hall is not even in our six-year (capital improvement plan),” Ford said, adding the city hall expansion is on a long list of parked projects.
Lacy said the purchase of the newspaper building could be a good deal, but he also expressed concern about the city’s current financial situation.
“This seems like a real long shot that this is something we’d ever pull the trigger on,” he said. “I’m not seeing this as the right time to be doing this.”
The council voted three times Monday afternoon on whether to enter into a closed door session to discuss the possible purchase of the newspaper building.
The first vote failed with Magill joining Ford, Lacy and Sloop in opposing the executive session.
Magill initially advocated against the purchase of a new city hall building.
“I liked it better six months ago,” he said, adding that the city had other financial priorities in the coming years. “It’s out of order for me. I’d let this one pass.”
But later in the meeting, Magill voted in favor of the executive session saying he wanted to hear more from council members who wanted to make an offer.
Magill specifically sounded interested in an idea from some council members to make an aggressive offer somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million for the newspaper property, which is listed for $5.5 million.
However, even with Magill switching his vote to make it four members in favor of the executive session, the motion still failed.
That’s because under Colorado law, a two-thirds majority of the council must vote in favor of convening a closed-door session.
There was a short moment of drama at the meeting when City Attorney Dan Foote had to call a timeout and go across the street to City Hall to review state laws to confirm the council needed five “yes” votes to go into executive session.
After the third vote to go into executive session failed, the council agreed to drop the pursuit of the newspaper building at this time.
Magill said it will be up to a new council, which will be seated Nov. 14, whether or not to pursue a new city hall building.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.
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