Steamboat City Council rules out replacing Iron Horse with police station


— The mission to find a new permanent home for the police officers and firefighters who work at 840 Yampa St. became more urgent Tuesday night after the Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-2, to negotiate the sale of the city-owned building to Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million.

Early in their lengthy discussion about moving emergency services off Yampa Street, the council also voted unanimously to spare the Iron Horse from becoming a new police station.

Agreeing with members of the public who have criticized the proposal to raze the aging motel and replace it with a new 15,000-square-foot police headquarters, council members said they need to find a better location. And they want more time settle on one.

But city officials said they shouldn't wait too long.

“Timing is becoming a critical issue for us,” Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said. “If we don't begin designing the station today, we will not be able to start construction in the summer.”

The council's rejection of the Iron Horse proposal came after Hinsvark said she recently learned the city could transfer the collateral on the motel's debt service to a different city asset such as the community center.

She said such a move could potentially allow the city to close the Iron Horse, demolish it or sell it to a private operator.

The council agreed to revisit the Iron Horse and its future at its next meeting.

The rejection of the Iron Horse proposal leaves the Stock Bridge Transit Center as the only current alternative site for a combined police and fire station, but several council members indicated they want the city to find more options.

Initial discussions centered on finding office space to lease in the short term and having more dialogue with outgoing TIC about developing a public safety campus on its west Steamboat property.

Council members had concerns that building the proposed 28,000-square-foot public safety campus at Stock Bridge at a cost of $11.4 million while eliminating most of the public parking there would have negative consequences.

City officials said that to offset the loss of parking at Stock Bridge, they would spend $600,000 adding parking to a parcel of land they own next to B&K Distributing on 13th Street, just across the railroad crossing from the Depot Art Center.

Public Safety Director Joel Rae said he “felt very good about the fire and police stations being relocated from downtown” to the Stock Bridge site.

The sale of the emergency services building is the first step to relocate the police and fire stations off Yampa Street. Council members Cari Hermacinski and Walter Magill voted against the sale.

Hermacinski questioned whether the building, which is proposed to be sold to Big Agnes for well less than its $3 million appraised value, could be advertised to other potential buyers.

She also said the council needs to discuss its practice of spending taxpayer dollars to keep certain businesses, like SmartWool and Big Agnes, from leaving Steamboat.

“Will we constantly be chasing after organizations that want to stay here with taxpayer dollars and taxpayer resources?” Hermacinski asked.

Proponents of the sale of the building said the outdoor retailers' presence downtown will bring a much-needed spark to Yampa Street, similar to the way the promenade is expected to foster growth at the base of Mount Werner.

Part of the city's negotiations with Big Agnes and Honey Stinger is expected to include a provision that would allow the city to buy back the building at a pre-determined price should the company leave Steamboat or fail to meet certain parameters.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email


Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Oh well, get to add sale of building to Big Agnes to city real estate disasters.

The real estate disaster is off to a fast start with the city council having no preferred site for replacement buildings.

Apparently I've missed something, because in my reckoning Big Agnes cannot move in until there are new police and fire stations. So a quick sale to Big Agnes does not appear to help Yampa St redevelopment.

BTW, I do see a way out of this mess for the city. Since Big Agnes has to sell it back to the city if they don't meet certain standards then all city has to do is stay there so Big Agnes fails to meet those standards!


John Rogers 4 years, 5 months ago

I love a simple fix......

Let the city look at the purchase of the TIC complex.... hey there outta here so use that for all things needed....plenty of room and not a bad location ...

Oh and can we talk about a round-a-bout @ 40 & 129....


Steve Lewis 4 years, 5 months ago

It is a clearer picture with the Iron Horse removed. That clearer picture may take some hours to soak in, and the view today is wiser than the on-the-spot conclusions councilors had moments after 1) learning of new options for the Iron Horse bonds and then 20 minutes later after 2) removing that confusing IH piece from this puzzle.

Unfortunately the clarity today better highlights that the wrong decision was made. We are literally rushing to vacate our debt free police and fire stations so that Big Agnes can have that space. We don't even know where we will go. We seem eager to go into debt so that Big Agnes can have our fire and police station. We seem eager to cannibalize other City properties, abandoning the intent of those properties, so that Big Agnes can have our fire and police station.

This is probably more apparent today than last night. It's one thing to say we'll give Big Agnes a bargain to keep them in Steamboat. Very much another when that contract triggers many $ millions in debt and aborting existing transit modal centers.

I sympathize with the councilors. They have been presented with a moving and oversold target. It has been, and continues to be a rushed decision.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 5 months ago

It is not too late to correct the error. Last night was a decision to negotiate a contract with Big Agnes. This contract with Big Agnes will have two hearings at City Council. Plenty of sellers and buyers change their mind in this phase. The City should be smart and change it's mind.

Sonja Macys offered a priority list that council accepted last night to reach their decision:

1) Sale of police and fire station to Big Agnes 2) Location 3) Iron Horse

Actually they proceeded to do 3) first, and left 2) for later. Seems obvious the 2) Location should have been the higher priority. And above that they should have put THE BUDGET. The truth is we are cannibalizing the Stockbridge because it is a cheap corner being cut. The lost modal transit center has no place in that poorly executed math.

The entirety of this mess can be solved quite easily - wait 5 years until we can afford to do this right.


John Weibel 4 years, 5 months ago

Why wait, the era of cheap debt is probably coming to a close... so we may as well enter into another mort(death)-gage(grip) for the city - because we are flush with cash and have not had any desires to give out raises which the council did not think they couldn't afford. Ensure that the public debt payments portion of the city budget gets larger so that if/when the economy pulls back again a larger portion of the budget goes to the bankers.

That is the ticket Steve, why wait, ensure debt service is an increasing percentage of the budget that is fixed and can not be cut. I can see the logic behind Mr Robert's resigning.

It is all to easy to spend someone else's money.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Steve, I don't see how it was hard to understand this was all about Big Agnes. The staff report made it pretty clear that the main priority was Big Agnes.

Nor do I understand how there can be any question of the silliness of committing to sell current facilities prior to even locating a site to build replacement facilities. It isn't even clear that they have the money to build both fire and police stations.

Normally, a site is determined for new buildings. The design and construction costs are estimated, bids are solicited, accepted and then construction starts with commitments of a completion date. And then the current facilities are put up for sale or rent. But here they've committed to the final step prior to figuring out ANY of the prior steps. That is like going into a restaurant and ordering dessert and then saying, "But we haven't decided if we are eating dinner here."

This makes absolutely no sense and has $10M to $15M is at stake. Thus, quite likely it is the worst city council decision ever.


cindy constantine 4 years, 5 months ago

Roberts negotiated with Bill Gambler on the safety center then resigns effective immediately?? Doesn't Council even get a hint that further due diligence is appropriate? Cari and Walter made the right decision on this issue and luckily it is not too late to "retreat". And why do we pay severance when someone resigns? He probably has another opportunity lined up in Colo Spgs.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

I still like my idea of yesterday of selling Iron Horse to Big Agnes as their new corporate HQ.

Another aspect of City of SB real estate disasters. Buy Iron Horse quickly at the peak of the market. Sell police and fire building quickly at the bottom of the market.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 5 months ago

This current scenario was always apparent - sell to Big Agnes today and our departments have no home in 18 months. But there has also been a lot of salesmanship and layered Iron Horse confusion in the two packets thus far. One had no fire department. This has no functioning modal center.

Thankfully they are beginning to hear broader input. But now we are where we are. I'm glad the stupefying fog of the Iron Horse overlay is gone.

Cari and Sonja voted the opposite of my expectations. Cari asked staff for 5-year lease options to temporarily house the police department elsewhere. That contemplates keeping the Stockbridge as is, with time to pursue better parcels for the public safety when we have more funding ability.

I think they all woke up today with a better understanding of this picture.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Cari asked staff for 5-year lease options

Well, if going to lease it for five years then might as well also get an option to buy. :) (Or in a less inept world, not sell current building until having a place to move).

The YVHA property is too far west for the fire station. As I read the city staff report, even putting the fire station at what was the transit center is further from many than is advisable. From staff report showing circles on maps, it looks to me that a downtown site along Oak or Pine is going to have to be considered if they have to move from Yampa St. For example, they could be clever at Oak and Fourth and just build a glorified garage and buy an adjacent house for lodging.

YVHA's Elk River parcel would appear to work for a police station.


Dennis O'Connor 4 years, 5 months ago

Isn't the 10 acre site at Elk River Road and US 40, owned by the YVHA looking for a Buyer? Does one hand know what the other is doing. That would be a perfect site, easy access, visible, across from the CSP site and a block from the Justice Center. I bet the city grant writer can figure out the financing.


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