New Assistant City Manager Hired, Parks & Rec Director Retires
The city of Aspen announced the hiring of a new assistant city manager and the retirement of the longtime leader of the parks department, the Aspen Daily News reported. Diane Foster, who served as the city manager of Park City, Utah, from 2013 until October, will oversee Aspen’s parking, downtown vitality, transportation, the Wheeler Opera House, parks and recreation, Kids First and Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority staff.
Jeff Woods, manager of parks and recreation, will retire June 30 after more than 20 years with the city. He leaves a legacy that includes the John Denver Sanctuary, the Jennie Adair Wetlands, countless new trails and park improvements and environmental stewardship, including protection of the Roaring Fork River corridor.
Aspen Fire Department to Hire Paid Positions
After years of weighing the pros and cons of incorporating paid firefighters into the longstanding volunteer institution, the Aspen Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted to officially hire full-time, paid members, the Aspen Daily News reported. The fund for full-time positions come from voters overwhelmingly approving an increased mill levy rate almost two years ago to support Aspen Fire’s operations. The department used some of those funds to promote its inspector to full-time training manager. This newest plan, which the department will roll out next quarter, is to hire two full-time staff members to operate the downtown Aspen headquarters and one “floating” role that will act in a supervisor capacity and fill in as needed.
Some City Contracts Move Forward
Aspen City Council passed a slew of contracts despite a diminishing municipal budget and looking for prudent ways to spend public dollars on economic assistance, the Aspen Daily News reported. The consent calendar items were vetted by the city finance director, assistant city manager, city attorney and herself, and there was justification for funding the five contracts even during the city’s current belt-tightening measures. Over half a million dollars will be used to purchase new equipment for the Wheeler Opera House, address critical water storage, fix a broken traffic light at the airport intersection, update mapping data and advance an affordable housing project.
City Council Approves Expedited Construction
Aspen City Council agreed to loosen construction restrictions in an effort to increase economic activity during the COVID-19 crisis, the Aspen Times reported. Building permits will be expedited and issued, potentially letting developers work on several projects at once.
Elected officials also agreed to extend the right-of-way construction season from its current June 1 closure date to July 1, and then begin it early, prior to Labor Day, for the fall months.
That gives contractors and laborers at least a month to make up for the time they were shut down on their projects in April. Construction hours were not extended and will remain 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Snowmass Club Gets an Upgrade
The Snowmass Club’s Black Saddle Bar and Grille will get new flooring and lighting, along with new and refurbished furniture as part of a remodel, the Aspen Times reported. The private club’s public restaurant and hangout is set to have a fresh, modern look as early as mid-May. Long-term renovation plans for the club include updating the locker room and spa facilities, creating designated studio spaces for classes, expanding the pool and making it more family friendly by adding a slide and splash pad, and other athletic facilities improvements but no date is set to start these additional projects.
Two Snowmass Lodges Sell
A limited liability company controlled by a member of the national council for Challenge Aspen has acquired two slope side lodges in Snowmass Village for a combined $14 million with the intent to sell one of them to the nonprofit in the future, the Aspen Times reported.
Challenge Aspen CEO Jeff Hauser confirmed the nonprofit is working with the new owner, which is called CA Loan I LLC, to possibly buy the 64-room Snowmass Mountain Chalet.
The 37,747-square-foot hotel, which is located next to the Fanny Hill run, would be used as both a lodge and Challenge Aspen’s home office. The nonprofit is not interested in the second lodge that was part of the purchase, the smaller 9,360-square-foot Snowmass Inn, located down Fanny Hill from the chalet.
Revenue to Drop 17.5% Year Over Year
The town of Basalt is looking at the short- and long-term impacts of the stay-at-home orders mandated by COVID-19, thinking about ways an operational budget that earns 60% of its revenue from sales taxes can keep providing essential services, the Aspen Daily News reported. Short-term revenue models for the town are based on the current stay-at-home order continuing through June 2020 and project sales tax collections at the end of the year being down 15.2%, or $695,100, to what was budgeted. Compared to 2019, the forecasted revenue decline, 17.5%, is even steeper.
The town will maintain essential services, ranging from the response time for a police officer being unchanged; streets still getting plowed and the town continuing its role of providing clean water, watching over finances and conducting well-run elections.
Bill Kane Elected Mayor
Bill Kane was elected Basalt’s newest mayor in a huge victory over current councilman Bill Infante and challenger Rob Leavitt. Due to Kane’s plurality on the first vote, instant runoff voting didn’t have to be employed, the Aspen Daily News reported. Among the council candidates, Glenn Drummond, David Knight and Elyse Hottel, were elected out of six candidates.
Carbondale Sets Up Emergency Task Force
In the month since the Carbondale Emergency Task Force was launched, the entity has grown into a communitywide effort boasting 50 official partners and more than 100 volunteers overseeing dozens of specific initiatives to ensure everyone has access to information and resources in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Aspen Daily News reported.
“Neighborhood heroes” are volunteering their time to distribute fliers in both English and Spanish that list phone numbers and websites for arenas ranging from grocery store hours and meal delivery services to financial relief and immigrant resources. Many of the restaurants are coordinating about possibly including the flier in takeout and delivery orders.
Tobacco Tax Approved by Voters
A sizable majority of voters in Carbondale’s municipal election supported taxing tobacco products — with 924 in favor of the measure and 381 opposed, according to the Sopris Sun.
Beginning July 1, it represents a sales tax increase of four dollars per pack of cigarettes or 40 percent on other tobacco products, with proceeds earmarked for prevention and treatment of tobacco use and enforcement and education related to risks and regulations.
Plans for Glenwood Mall Fall Through
CenterPointe Development, the Arizona-based company that was interested in purchasing and redeveloping the Glenwood Springs Mall, is no longer pursuing the project because potential tenants were backing out due to Covid-19, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. CenterPointe was under contract to purchase the mall properties in West Glenwood but was unable to reach an extension agreement with mall owner Frank Woods. They were reportedly in talks with Hobby Lobby, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Famous Footwear as tenants.
Broadband Broadly Coming to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs will move forward with the installation of 150 miles worth of broadband fiber throughout Glenwood Springs, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The city’s current broadband system services predominantly businesses but also a few residents.
The new broadband system would replace the existing one and have the ability to provide fiber internet service to every business and residence in Glenwood Springs. Much of the city’s existing fiber has reached its 20-year lifespan.
United to Drop to Three Flights Per Day
United Airlines has reduced its Denver-to-Aspen service from 21 scheduled flights a week to 12 scheduled flights a week, the Aspen Daily News reported. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines will continue to schedule one daily flight from Salt Lake City. The demand for flights to and from Aspen continues to sink due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government-issued stay-at-home orders. Though United had a 21-flight-per-week schedule from Denver to Aspen on the books since the beginning of April, more than half of those flights were canceled due to low demand.
Five Candidates on the Ballot for PitCo Commissioners
The Nov. 3 election field for three four-year seats on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners is set, the Aspen Daily News reported. In District 3, Commissioner Greg Poschman will be unopposed. Poschman, 60, was first elected in 2016 and will serve a second term. In District 4, incumbent Commissioner Steve Child, 71, of Old Snowmass, will face Chris Council, 43, of Snowmass Village. Child is currently serving his second term.
In District 5, Jeffrey Evans, 68, of Basalt, and Frances Jacober, 72, of the Carbondale area, will square off. The seat is currently held by Commissioner George Newman, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits. Newman is currently serving a third consecutive term
New Permitting System Goes Online
Pitkin County’s community development department is gearing up for the launch of new building permit submittal and tracking software that promises to streamline the process of filing and tracking permits online from anywhere, anytime, the Aspen Daily News reported. Everything from building permits to planning cases and inspection requests will be submitted, processed and tracked online through the Permit Application Tracking System, or PATS. It allows customers to check a permit’s progress every step of the way, according to a county news release.