Snowmass Fire to build new station on current site | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Fire to build new station on current site

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

The Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District announced plans Wednesday to build a new station on its Owl Creek Road property.

The district told the Snowmass Sun in late 2014 that it needed to replace its 45-year-old station, and it has since spent the past year researching alternative sites in the village. But after finding no locations that fit the bill, the fire board decided the station needs to stay put and rebuild on its current property, which could mean approaching voters with a bond question in November.

The fire district is currently collecting more property taxes than it needs for operations from Snowmass Village property owners, so it is putting aside the excess revenue in hopes of using it to cover all the preconstruction costs of the project, Chief Scott Thompson said. The district also is considering financing the project through a certificate of participation rather than a bond.

"Worst-case scenario, we're looking at $20 million" total for the project, Thompson said.

The original station was designed by Fritz Benedict and built in 1971. Since then, a major expansion was done in 1987, a third floor was added in the 1990s and structural shoring was done two years ago.

"It met the needs of the community 45 years ago," Fire Marshal John Mele said. "Then we cut, diced and sliced that original building so many ways because we were outgrowing the station."

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Thompson, Mele and board President Bill Boineau announced the board's decision at the Snowmass Rotary Club's meeting.

Problems with the fire station now include rusty gas lines, failing foundations and inadequate space for the district's administrative, housing and storage needs. In a needs-assessment and feasibility study conducted last year, Charles Cunniffe Architects found that the only portion of the building worth keeping is the original three-bay, concrete structure, which is why the district hoped to find a new site it could build on so its services wouldn't be affected during construction.

The district generally has a good handle on fire prevention, Mele said, so about 70 percent of its responses are medical calls to the Snowmass Clinic on the slopeside end of the mall. The next most common response location is its pickup point on Faraway Road below Base Village.

The district considered buying property in Base Village several years ago, while the project was in receivership, or joining forces with Aspen Valley Hospital to share a location with the clinic, Mele said. Fire administrators revisited that idea in the past year and also considered available open space near Two Creeks, property known as the "school site" on Brush Creek Road, the entrance to Horse Ranch and a lot on Highline Road near the Hidden Valley Cemetery.

The most recent sites it considered were the Point Site and another lot above Town Hall, but the board had some concerns with the amount of space and the soil's stability, Thompson and Mele said.

Razing the building and constructing the new station all at once would be the most efficient, and thus most cost-effective, way to complete the project, Thompson said. That would mean relocating the district's operations for an estimated 20 months.

"We do not want our service level dropping at all," Thompson said. "I'd like to keep the same response time that we have now."

Thompson and Mele said they plan to move forward with design this year and gather input from the public as well as the Snowmass Chapel and Anderson Ranch Arts Center, the station's neighbors. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District also is considering a bond measure in this election cycle, so fire officials will consider that as they develop a financing plan, Thompson said.

jill@snowmasssun.com

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