Steamboat Planning Commission gives initial green light to county’s new health, human services facility

A rendering of the proposed new facility in downtown Steamboat Springs that will house Routt County Health and Human Services.
Courtesy photo

Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will recommend that Steamboat Springs City Council gives Routt County the green light to move forward in creating a modernized, two-story office building for the county’s Health and Human Services employees and public services.

The building will be located at the corner of Sixth and Oak streets, directly across from the county’s annex building and Historic Routt County Courthouse. It will replace the current Routt County Department of Human Services, currently located at 135 Sixth St., which is being demolished this month.

David Baldinger, Jr., a member of the city’s planning commission, said community surveys and word-of-mouth from community members highlight the importance of having practical amenities in the downtown area, which included a new building for health and human services.

“I think a big part of the idea was every survey you read over the years, the community really likes having services downtown, where they’re easily accessible to the public,” Baldinger said. “I think that’s the convenient piece of them.”

Steamboat Planning Director Rebecca Bessey told planning commissioners at their Thursday meeting that the building would limit future development of Butcherknife Creek, helping further the city’s climate and open space goals.

Julie Kennedy, Routt County purchasing manager, said the county hopes to hold a groundbreaking at the new location Oct. 13.

Kennedy said the new building will provide a better space for the Routt County Public Health department, which has grown since COVID-19. Public health is currently housed in the courthouse, which Kennedy said has stretched the building to its maximum capacity. The Department of Human Services has also outgrown its current building, Kennedy added.

“It was something that was being looked into anyway for human service due to the staffing, but the decision to go forward was confirmed last November,” Kennedy said. “The public health staff will hopefully be getting away from COVID-19, but the need was already recognized and the first public health director had been brought on board prior to the pandemic.”

The new space, Kennedy said, will allow public health officials to administer vaccines of all sorts and work on issues in addition to COVID-19.

“Most counties have a good public health department on staff,” Kennedy said. “This was a foreseen need, and I don’t believe they have an intention of having a smaller staff.”

Chancie Keenan, the project’s consultant with Mountain Architecture Design Group, said the project aligns with city and county goals of utilizing downtown space for useful services.

“We’re really supporting the community goals of increasing density in this area and continuing to locate (government) and institutional uses downtown,” Keenan said. “We’re also excited about the public benefit of maintaining these integral services downtown and having this campus expansion.”

Keenan said the facility also minimizes added construction and sprawl to the downtown area, which helps to preserve the historic Western feel of the area.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.