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City of Aspen’s deal with developer valued as much as $5M less than what’s offered

An appraisal on a building the city is under contract to buy puts a valuation $3 million to $5 million less than what a developer is proposing to sell it for.

The city of Aspen hired Randy Gold, MAI, SRA, of Aspen Appraisal, in August to evaluate the $23 million proposal made by Mark Hunt to the municipal government.

He has offered to provide 21,442 square feet of turnkey, developed office space in a building yet to be developed at 517 E. Hopkins Ave.

The city went under contract with Hunt for the property in July and due diligence expires in December.

Gold concluded that the market value of that deal is worth between $18 million and $20 million.

Gold's Aug. 7 oral presentation to City Manager Steve Barwick, Assistant City Manager Barry Crook and Public Works Director Scott Miller included his scope of work, methodology and analysis of the proposed project.

Barwick said Tuesday that he could not go into details about Gold's presentation, which was shared with Aspen City Council in executive session last month.

But Barwick noted that Gold did a "thorough and complete analysis, and not just the value of the land but how much this deal is worth to the city," Barwick said.

Part of that deal is Hunt paying as much as $100 a square foot for interior finishing; the city would pay the rest depending on its build-out specifications.

All of it will be contingent on Aspen voters this fall choosing to have city offices in that Hopkins Avenue space, along with 5,500 square feet on the top floor of 204 S. Galena St., which also is owned by Hunt.

Combined, the deal would cost the city $32.5 million.

Barwick said he is hoping to have appraisal on the Galena Street space within two weeks.

What won't be part of the appraisal is Hunt's other part of the deal, which is to remodel the current City Hall Armory building. Hunt proposes to do it for around $12 million.

The city estimated it can do it for $15.8 million, although Barwick said a lot of contingency is built into the city's figure because the Armory is an old building, is historically designated and the scope of work is not yet known.

Hunt's proposal will be known as "Option A" on the ballot.

"Option B" is the city building its own office space at 427 and 455 Rio Grande Place, which was approved by ordinance in 2017.

It's estimated to cost $26.1 million and could be as large as 40,000 square feet, according to the city's preliminary figures.

Both options involve remodeling the current City Hall.


Panelists in Aspen promise there is a ‘way out’ of addiction

Addiction experts who spoke Tuesday in front of close to 300 people in Aspen said there is a way out of chemical dependency but it takes deep personal work, commitment, courage and, most importantly, asking for help.

"I think the key message today is: encourage those who suffer that it's OK to ask for help, even if it's more than once," said William Moyers, vice president of public affairs and community relations at the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.

Moyers, who also is an author and son of veteran journalist Bill Moyers, told the group of recovering addicts and therapists who filled the ballroom at the Hotel Jerome that his path of addiction started here in Aspen in 1975.

As a teenager, he mowed the lawn at the Aspen Institute and began smoking marijuana, which was his gateway drug that eventually led to crack cocaine.

"This is ground zero for me," Moyers said, adding that once he found that high, it was over for him. "I didn't have to work so hard anymore. … I found that answer."

Years later, Moyer found himself at a crack house. That's when he went to treatment — twice — in 1989 and then again in 1991.

A few years later, he found himself at another crack den in Georgia when he was working for CNN.

"I surrendered," he said. "Surrendering is not giving up, it's about giving in and it takes great courage to give in.

"Sobriety is not the end; it's the beginning."

However, Moyer found himself struggling again in 2012 when he got hooked on pain meds from a series of dental procedures that had him in chronic pain.

"Pain meds are the Trojan horse of addiction in America," he said. "I was going down a slippery slope and I wasn't on top of it. When I hit rock bottom, I was sober and I had to ask for help. … I had to learn to live without opioids and live with chronic pain."

And so far, he has. Moyer has been sober for 24 years.

He added that addiction is a cunning, baffling and patient disease.

"Ours is an illness that waits," he said. "I had to find a way out of the sanity of my own thinking."

Moyer, along with Dr. Mel Pohl and Claudia Black, Ph.D, were part of a panel organized by local nonprofit A Way Out.

The speakers were part of a community discussion on solutions to the opioid epidemic, the effects addiction has on family, trauma's role in fostering addiction and getting past addiction and becoming well.

During the Q&A portion at the end of the four-hour discussion, the high rate of suicide and substance abuse in the Roaring Fork Valley was brought up almost immediately. The notion that no one is really talking about it so the problem continues is real, audience members noted.

Black, who specializes in family systems and addictive disorders, said it's imperative that adults stay connected with kids and realize that suicidality is pervasive.

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It stems from depression, self-loathing, self-sabotage and the person being ashamed of whom they have become, Black added.

In her presentation, she outlined a portrait of addiction in the family, overlaying how adverse child experiences can fuel generational repetition and how people can improve the traumatic response and its effects.

"Addiction in the family is one of the most horrible things ever and it's the most treatable illness," Black said. "Don't underestimate the role you play in someone's life, and validate them with power and treatment."

Moyer said it's imperative to keep trying to help those who need help, even if they don't realize they need it.

"Don't let your loved ones get to rock bottom," he said.


Pitkin County to prompt valley-wide recycling changes, looking to end drop-off sites

Changes coming to Pitkin County's recycling program likely will have a ripple effect on communities throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and businesses in Aspen.

A new county waste ordinance that commissioners could address next month will require all county residents to pay for curbside recycling, said Brian Pettet, the county's public works director, and Cathy Hall, county solid waste manager.

In theory, that ends the need for drop-off recycling sites such as the Rio Grande Recycling Center in Aspen and others in Redstone and the Basalt area, they said. It also would end the need to subsidize Snowmass Village's recycling efforts, Hall and Pettet said.

"If the board approves (mandatory recycling), the need for those drop-off facilities goes away," Pettet said. The money to operate them would likely be better spent on other diversion programs that focus on things such as food waste and construction debris, he said.

The drop-off recycling sites are expensive to operate and aren't as efficient as curbside recycling, so county staff are recommending that commissioners stop funding them by next year, Hall and Pettet said.

If Pitkin County goes to mandatory curbside recycling — which may occur as soon as January — other valley communities are likely follow suit, Hall said. Glenwood Springs is looking at the idea, Basalt will likely follow Pitkin County's lead and Carbondale has already adopted a curbside recycling ordinance, she said.

"You will start seeing it down the valley," Hall said Tuesday. "Everybody will require curbside recycling."

Pitkin County's current waste ordinance only requires trash haulers to offer residents the option of paying for single-stream, curbside recycling, Pettet said. Between 70 percent and 75 percent of county residents currently opt to recycle, Hall and Pettet said.

"The board has given a philosophical thumbs-up to pursue the mandatory program," Pettet said. "Whether you recycle or not, you will still pay the fee (if the ordinance changes)."

In addition to requiring all residents to recycle — or at least pay a recycling fee ­— the new ordinance probably will charge residents by volume for landfill garbage, meaning that the more trash generated the larger the trash bill, Pettet said. That is meant to incentivize recycling, he said.

The county currently pays or co-pays for recycling drop-off sites in Aspen and Basalt, while the Redstone site is staffed twice a month by volunteers, Hall said. Pitkin County pays for all recycling in Snowmass Village, she said.

Hall and Pettet recommended Tuesday that commissioners transfer responsibility for the Rio Grande Center in Aspen to the city and completely stop paying for the operation of the site by 2020. In addition, they proposed closing the Redstone site in February, stopping the recycling subsidy to Snowmass Village in 2019 and phasing out the county's financial responsibility for the Basalt/Willits site in 2020.

Hall said the national increase in single-stream, curbside recycling has triggered a decrease in the number of recycling drop-off centers. Glenwood Springs, for example, closed its drop-off center last year, she said.

Particularly irksome for commissioners Tuesday was the Rio Grande site located next to Aspen's skateboard park.

The county paid $213,000 to operate the site in 2017 and the city paid nothing. And while city staff help operate and clean the site, a 2015 informal county survey indicated that 57 percent of Rio Grande users are city residents or businesses, Hall said in a recent interview.

The city has had a mandatory curbside recycling program since at least 2012.

Between 100 and 200 people a day use the Rio Grande center, which is located on city-owned property, during the busy season, Liz Chapman, specialist with the city of Aspen's Environmental Health Department said recently. And while she cast doubt on the accuracy of the county's survey three years ago, she said a 50-50 split between city and county users was a "reasonable" estimate.

Businesses in Aspen's downtown core, in particular, appear to use the site frequently, along with property management companies, so something would have to be done about commercial recycling for Aspen if Rio Grande closes, Pettet said.

"Every year, Food & Wine is a problem," Hall said Tuesday. "We have to call Waste Management to empty the bins. Each bin is $50 a trip."

Commissioner Rachel Richards said it's time for Aspen businesses to chip in for recycling.

"Times have changed," she said. "I don't think the county can subsidize city businesses that don't want to schedule recycling pickup at their businesses.

"People need to take responsibility for their own waste."

Commissioners have tried repeatedly over the past few years to get the city to help pay for the recycling center to no avail, said Pettet and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock. Specifically, the Aspen City Council has twice declined to contribute in the past seven years, Pettet said.

"We are not able to have a conversation with them," Peacock said Tuesday. "We haven't been able to get on (the City Council) agenda for five years.

"It's a challenging issue. We are struggling with how to move forward."

The contract with Waste Management, a private hauler, for the Rio Grande is set to expire in February and a new contract could be in the $300,000 to $400,000 range or higher, Pettet said. That's partially because recycling is an expensive process and partially because China just banned imports of most mixed paper and plastic recycling, he said.

Pettet told commissioners he'd like to see the city take the lead on negotiating that new contract, which the county would pay 50 percent of in 2019. The city would take sole responsibility for the site in 2020, according to Pettet's recommendation.

If the city again declines to help pay for Rio Grande, the county would then have to reassess its options, including possibly closing the site, Clapper said in a recent interview.

"That would be a tough thing to do … when you're a county that's been as pro-recycling as Pitkin County," Clapper said. "I want to push a serious discussion with the city of Aspen on this."

On Tuesday, Clapper reiterated that request for a discussion with the city, saying it was clear that downtown Aspen businesses are significant contributors to the Rio Grande.

Commissioner Rachel Richards said she'd also like to see the city start paying for at least part of the Rio Grande.

"If they don't want it to remain, they should give us a clear message on that," Richards said.

She also suggested extending the life of the Redstone drop-off site for six months to see how the new curbside recycling program is working.

Commissioner George Newman feels there's enough time before the Waste Management contract expires in February to bring the city, county and public together to deal with the Rio Grande Center.

"I think we need to begin and get some decisions made," Newman said.

Aspen council members heard from Chapman, who helps manage the Rio Grande site, about the county's plans for Rio Grande on Monday during their regular work session.

"It will significantly impact us," Chapman said.

City Manager Steve Barwick told the council the issue is complex and expensive and that he thinks a work session with county commissioners on the subject should happen.

"It will be a large hit to the general fund," Barwick said. "It took us by surprise."

Commissioners on Tuesday asked Pettet to bring them the new waste ordinance so the first step in the process could begin. That ordinance is currently undergoing review by the county lawyers and may be ready by next month, Pettet said.


Aspen officials hold off on sandwich board regulations

Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to kick the can on regulating sandwich boards for at least another year.

Council passed on first reading an ordinance that keeps the status quo in not enforcing the elimination of the signs within the city until September 2019. The ordinance will be finalized next week.

The move is in response to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires municipal sign code regulations to be "content neutral."

The decision renders most regulations in the country unconstitutional and forces municipalities to regulate in ways that are not focused on what a sign says.

Concerned that there would be a proliferation of signs and businesses renting out their sandwich boards to large companies for advertising as a result of the high court's ruling, city officials recommended council enact further regulations.

Last year, the city hired consultant Mark White, who is a national leader in the development of sign codes as it relates to the Supreme Court ruling, to assist with new regulations. That led to the majority of council voting in August 2017 to have all sandwich boards eliminated in an attempt to preserve community aesthetics.

But council also voted to delay enforcement of that until Sept. 28 to accommodate local business owners in their desire to advertise on the street.

With that deadline looming, council asked staff to come up with other options.

But the majority of council members on Monday didn't feel any of the options get to their goal of maintaining the status quo and ensuring equity between business types and locations, while complying with the Supreme Court's decision.

More research needs to be done, Councilwoman Ann Mullins said.

"I don't think we've come up with an equitable solution yet," she said, asking for information on what other mountain towns are doing in response to the high court's ruling.

City Attorney Jim True said towns across the country are struggling with how to proceed.

Councilman Adam Frisch said he prefers holding off for multiple years, pointing out that council has more important issues to deal with.

A handful of retailers told council at its Monday meeting that their sandwich signs are important, if not crucial, to their business.

"I depend on my sandwich board a lot, … it's a big part of my business," said Susan Harvey, owner of Susie's Limited consignment store, which is located 50 feet from the sidewalk and under an overhang in the Concept 600 building. "My board is the only thing that lets people driving by know I'm there."

Working with the parameters that regulations must be focused on the size, type, location and appearance of signs, city planners provided four alternatives for council's consideration.

The one ultimately chosen was the third one — delay the enforcement of the existing regulations for one year.

The other options included allowing one sign per business that is located in what the city determines as a second-tier space, and is in a building containing a restaurant or retail store.

Another option was allowing one sandwich board sign per commercial building in which a restaurant or retailer is located. Multiple businesses could advertise on one sign and tenants would share the space on it.

Council also considered a fourth option, which was to take no action to amend the sign regulations and allow existing permits to expire.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein preferred voting on a hybrid, which included one sign per building that has a second-tier space in it, but he couldn't get support from council.

Until now, the city has had a hands-off approach on enforcing sandwich boards while regulations remained in limbo.

As a result, many businesses have put up signs but have not paid for permits because they were not made available by the city while it sorted out its options.

New businesses will not be able to apply for permits for the next year while the law remains in limbo, although existing ones can renew.

Council directed staff to begin enforcing those who haven't paid and who are putting out multiple signs.

Jim Pomeroy, the city's code enforcement officer, said he is seeing two or three new sandwich boards a week in the downtown core. He estimated that about a quarter of all signs do not have permits.


Parents demand change at Aspen School District, fill school board meeting

A spillover crowd of parents packed the Aspen Board of Education's Monday meeting in what signaled their first public salvo to remove Dr. John Maloy as superintendent.

Their claims of a campus where teachers are afraid to speak their minds because of a so-called toxic culture, however, didn't resonate with the only two teachers who spoke during the public-comments portion of the meeting.

"As an employee and as a parent, I am proud of the collaboration that exists between the faculty and the administration and the school board, between our Aspen Education Association and its faculty, and the community at large," said Julie Markalunas Hall, a speech pathologist at the elementary school.

Likewise, Jared Thompson, a physical education teacher at the elementary school, said he also hasn't experienced the teacher climate of fear that has been alleged.

"It's a very positive atmosphere at the elementary school," he said. "The kids are happy, the teachers feel confident and supported. … To me, it's a positive place to work. I've enjoyed my 17 years here."

The parents' concerns were enough, however, for board President Sheila Wills to say the board would look into the culture that appears to be paining some faculty members. A work session addressing the issue could be scheduled for October, she said.

"We are a board that cares," she said. "We are a board that listens."

Wills said the board is familiar with teachers' concerns, and "we've been concerned about it for a while."

No teachers spoke negatively about the district because they are fearful of repercussions, said those behind Aspen Parent Action Committee, a newly formed group that began meeting last week in private.

"Our schools aren't performing, they're spending more money, making questionable hires and fires, and there's no transparency with the parents and the community," parent Bettina Slusar said. "It's not OK. We believe it has to change. And we're here as a group and as a community call to action.

"The teachers have been silent because they're afraid, but the data tells the story."

Slusar and other parents presented data showing the high school has slipped from third to 20th since 2010 in the Colorado Department of Education's ratings. The elementary school, once ranked 61st, now is 344th, Slusar said.

She also made a not-so-subtle suggestion about where the problem lies.

"I don't come from the academic world," she said. "I come from the business world. And we have a saying, and it's not polite but it's true: 'Fish rots from the head down.'"

Maloy did not publicly address the criticism that was levied his way. His annual performance review is set for next month. In October, the school board extended his contract through June 30, 2020. Wills told the audience the board will independently review his contract in executive session. Some parents suggested that Maloy undergo a 360 review by having colleagues and peers assess his job performance.

"We've had conversations about that," Wills said.

Maloy left his previous superintendent job in Indiana under the same conditions that are currently plaguing the Aspen School District, parent Patsy Kurkulis said. She referred to quotes from teachers in Indiana who worked under Maloy. The common thread among the Indiana and Aspen teachers is Maloy's unsettling management style, she said.

"The fear of these teachers is real, and it's trickling down to the test scores and performance of Aspen students," Kurkulis said.

Parents also accused the administration of engaging in nepotism; Maloy's daughter is the district psychologist, while another parent criticized Maloy and Wills for supporting Elizabeth Hodges, the district's human resources director who was disbarred in April from practicing law in Missouri for her estate-planning work for an elderly couple. A grand jury also indicted her for a felony related to the same work; she pleaded it down to a misdemeanor in December 2016 and is currently serving two years of unsupervised probation.

"Criminality has infected the working environment," Butler said. "Does your staff feel safe knowing the HR director has been disbarred, accused of stealing money from dead clients and charged with a felony, all in a work setting? She has access to all of their private information.

"How does the staff feel when the chairman of the board and the superintendent both voice their strong support for this criminal? Once again, to whom may teachers and staff voice their concerns?"

Wills cut Butler off from remarking more on the matter.

"We all know who bears the responsibility for hiring and firing," Butler responded.

Kathy Klug, who retired earlier this year from her full-time position as the lead college counselor but still helps the school district, spoke highly of Maloy and his ability to keep the district on solid financial footing.

"I commend our superintendent on those kind of practices that keep us stable enough to talk about innovative programs," she said.

Conflict goes with any organization, but cries of a toxic culture serve only to divide, Klug said, adding that school data can be looked at many ways.

"You need to look carefully before you say we are a diminishing school district," she said.

Parent Bill Carlson said the parent committee plans to keep a presence.

"We're not a bunch of softies," he said, "saying 'Oh, my god, we're afraid.'"

He added: "We look forward to participating at every meeting until things begin to change."

Roughly 70 to 80 parents attended Monday's meeting.

The 2018 results of the Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado Survey, formerly known as TELL Colorado and administered by the Colorado Department of Education, show that 77 percent of Aspen School District staff members were confident in district leadership, which was below the state average of 79 percent. The results were made available in January.

One of statements in the survey, "Staff feel comfortable raising important issues with school leaders," yielded 70 percent in agreement, with 28.1 percent saying they strongly agreed and another 41.9 percent saying they agreed. The remaining 30 percent were in dissent, with 16.8 percent replying they did not agree and another 13.2 percent saying they strongly disagreed.

Another 78 percent of the respondents agreed that "this school is led by an effective team," which also was below of the state average of 82 percent. The answer "strongly agree" generated 30.5 percent in responses, while 47.9 percent reported that they agree. The response "strongly disagree" saw 6.6 percent in favor, and "disagree" registered 15 percent.

Surveys were sent to 187 Aspen School District employees for the 2018 results; 138 teachers, or 77 percent, responded, another six responses came from school leaders, and 22 were from education professionals and service providers, according to the survey.

The survey can be found at https://tlcc-reports.cedu.io/​​reports/​401808/surveys/0/modules/0/constructs/02-SCHOOL-LEADERSHIP.


Colorado River district GM unveils manifesto for water-use reductions

GRAND JUNCTION — Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River District, presented six principles last week to guide an emerging federal and state program designed to reduce water use in order to avoid a compact call on the Colorado River.

Mueller spoke at a seminar produced by the River District in Grand Junction that attracted 265 people. The theme of the seminar was "Risky Business on the Colorado River."

The first two principles Mueller described Friday at the meeting relate to a legal bucket-within-a-bucket that the upper-basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming plan to create through federal legislation in Lake Powell, which would allow the three states to control water that they deliver to the big federal reservoir through a demand management, or water-use reduction program.

The River District's first principle is that such a storage program in Lake Powell should be "free of charge" and designed "for the benefit of the upper basin to avoid a compact violation."

The district's second principle says water stored in Lake Powell from a demand-management program should "not be subject to equalization or balancing releases from Lake Powell."

That principle stems from a set of interim guidelines approved in 2007 by the upper-basin states and the lower-basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada that seek to use water from Lake Powell, when it is at certain levels, to keep Lake Mead operational.

Mueller and other upper-basin regional water managers think the guidelines, which expire in 2026, now allow the lower basin to take more water than they deserve under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

Mueller told his audience that the demand-management pool to be created in Lake Powell is "for preventing lower-basin entities from sucking too much water down that river."

So, the second principle is meant to protect the upper basin from the lower basin.

The other principles are designed to either protect the Western Slope from the state, which is discussing potential mandatory cutbacks in water use in order to avoid a compact call, or from the Front Range, which may support such a measure, according to Mueller.

The River District's board members are determined to protect agricultural interests on the Western Slope, which use about 1.4 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River system every year, mainly for irrigating alfalfa fields and pastures.

By comparison, Front Range cities use about 360,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado River Basin through their transmountain diversion systems, which are junior to the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

And if those cities have that water cut off in the face of a call under the compact, Mueller said they would come buy out willing irrigators on the Western Slope and dry up their fields.

The River District's third principle is that any use-reduction program in the upper-basin states must be "voluntary, temporary and compensated" and "must reflect proportionate contributions from each upper division state."

Mueller said the River District supports a "guided market" approach to paying water users to use less water and let it flow instead to Lake Powell.

"What we're opposed to is some form of mandatory uncompensated curtailment of water rights, whether it is pre- or post-compact," he said.

The fourth principle is that there must be "no injury to other water rights."

The fifth principle is that there must be "no disproportionate impacts to any single basin or region with Colorado."

Mueller said Friday that the demand-management program must "make sure that the pain that comes with the reducing consumption of water is actually equitably distributed and applied to all users, everybody with a straw in the river."

Mueller explained that the post-1922 water rights in the Colorado River basin are roughly split equally between the transbasin diverters on the Front Range and users on the Western Slope.

"These junior water rights that are diverting significant amounts of water to the Front Range, along with our junior water rights on the West Slope, are the ones that need to be willing to share in this demand-management program, in the intentional reduced use," Mueller said.

The sixth principle is that a demand-management program must be consistent with what's known as "the conceptual framework" in Colorado's 2015 water plan relating to future potential transmountain diversions.

"We're not going to curtail our uses on the West Slope and send demand-management water down to Lake Powell, only to have another transmountain diversion come in and suck water to the East Slope," Mueller said. "That's what the state agreed to when it agreed to the state water plan, and we're saying that needs to be upheld."

Mueller's last slide said "the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state engineer should agree to abide by these principles and not go beyond them without unanimous agreement among those entities charged with protecting the state."

He plans to deliver that message to the CWCB when it meets Wednesday in Steamboat Springs.

Editor's note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications outlets on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Former Red Brick director charged with embezzlement can travel out of state

The former director of the city of Aspen's Red Brick Center for the Arts, who is charged with embezzling nearly $160,000 of taxpayer money, received permission Monday to travel to an out-of-state wedding this month.

Angie Callen, 37, is participating in her sister-in-law's wedding for a week beginning later this week, said Lawson Wills, her attorney.

Prosecutor Don Nottingham didn't object to the travel request, saying Callen was out of town when her arrest warrant was issued late last month and returned to Aspen and turned herself in at the Pitkin County Jail.

District Judge Chris Seldin granted the request, though he warned Callen that he would issue a warrant for her arrest if she fails to show up for future court hearings.

Callen is charged with four felonies — theft, committing cybercrimes, identity theft and embezzlement of public property. She faces between 11 and 33 years in prison if convicted of all charges, though any sentence she receives might not run consecutively. None of the charges require mandatory prison time, Nottingham said.

Callen served as executive director of the Red Brick Council for the Arts from 2014 until she was fired in June 2017.

Court documents indicate that she took out loans in the name of the Red Brick and then transferred the funds to a snowboard equipment company she owned with her husband. She also repeatedly overpaid herself, ran up thousands of dollars on a Red Brick credit card she secretly opened and spent more than $18,000 on food, hotels and ski excursions, the documents state.


Gents rugby rallies, holds off Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits to win Aspen Ruggerfest

For the third straight year, it looked like the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club was going to get run off its own pitch in the finals of the annual Ruggerfest tournament.

Instead, third-year coach Will Herborn and the Gents manned up to rally for a 40-38 win over the Dark 'n Stormy Misfits on Sunday at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen, their first Ruggerfest title since 2015.

"He told us to keep our heads up, like everybody should. Keep our heads up. We made it to the finals for a reason," Aspen first-year player Rodrick Waters said of Herborn. "We started making a run here at the end of the first half, so we just kept coming with that energy."

This was the fourth straight tournament the two teams had met in the finals at Ruggerfest, which was being held for the 51st year. The last time Aspen won was three years ago, a 51-27 victory over the Dark 'n Stormy Misfits. But the past two seasons, it was the Misfits winning in a rout: 47-20 in 2016 and 50-22 in 2017.

With the Misfits leading 26-7 late in the first half in Sunday's final, it looked like more of the same.

"The last couple of years it was decided by a couple of tries and the problem with that is the score never really reflected the game. It doesn't do those previous teams justice," Herborn said. "The beauty of it is, we have players that have played in all three of those games and they understand that and to win this is sweeter."

Aspen led the Misfits 7-0 after it was awarded a penalty try early in Sunday's contest. But four straight tries later and Dark 'n Stormy was on its way to a third straight championship.

However, the Gents went into the half with a bit of momentum after scoring on a late try to trail only 26-14 at the midway point.

"They were up at that point and I thought it was over. But we kept grinding and came out on top," said Aspen player Gabe Furnivall, who played for the Steamboat Springs side during the summer. "We came out and we were going downhill in the second half. That was good for us. Will was just telling us, 'Hey, it's time to work, boys. It's time to get back at it.'"

The Gents came out in the second half and played a bit possessed. Two quick tries and the match was suddenly tied at 26, and not long after Aspen scored yet again to take a 33-26 lead. The advantage reached as much as 40-26 midway through the second half, a run of 33 unanswered points for the Gents.

Dark 'n Stormy did get two tries back, but a missed kick on the final conversion attempt left them two points short, and the Aspen defense was able to fight them off over the final few minutes to earn the win.

En route to the championship, the Gents had to beat each of the Misfit teams entered into the open division. This included wins Saturday over the Denver Misfits and the Utah Misfits. Aspen finished the two-day tournament a perfect 4-0.

"Three years in the making, four years of watching, and finally the big 'W,'" an overjoyed Herborn said following the trophy presentation. "That gave you everything. It went back and forth. The leads changed. We saw players get sent off. That was a really amazing game of rugby to watch."

Best of the rest

The Salt Lake City Sister Wives wrapped up a dominant tournament Sunday by beating the Denver Black Ice in the women's championship match, 43-12. The master's (35 and up) division title went to the Dark 'n Stormy Misfits over Time, 29-22. Olympic Rugby Club won the Old Boys 45s title, while the Cardinals won both the 50s and 55s titles.


City of Aspen has appraisal for a portion of office space on fall ballot

The city of Aspen has received an outside appraisal on a portion of office space that voters will decide on this fall.

When and if the fair market value of 517 E. Hopkins Ave. that local appraiser Randy Gold provided to city officials is released to the public is anyone's guess.

Gold, of Aspen Appraisal Group, confirmed on Friday that he was hired by the city to do an appraisal on the value of 21,442 square feet of turnkey office space that the city would buy from developer Mark Hunt.

The city government is under contract with Hunt to purchase that space, along with 5,500 square feet next door, at 204 S. Galena St., for $32.5 million.

The deal also includes Hunt's development team remodeling the current City Hall for an estimated $3 million less than what the city would do it for.

That deal is "Option A" on this fall's ballot for Aspen voters.

"Option B" is the city building its own office space at 427 and 455 Rio Grande Place, which was approved by ordinance in 2017 by Aspen City Council.

That is estimated to cost $26.1 million and could be as large as 40,000 square feet, according to the city's preliminary figures.

Option B also includes remodeling City Hall but the city government would do it itself at a price tag of $15.8 million.

Gold said he hasn't been asked to appraise the entire deal that is spelled out in the city's real estate contract with Hunt, which includes a total of 26,942 square feet of developed office space and 20,000 square feet remodeled in City Hall.

Gold said he verbally shared his appraisal on the Hopkins space with City Manager Steve Barwick, Assistant City Manager Barry Crook and a staff member in the finance department. He declined to say what the dollar amount was, citing client confidentiality.

When asked for that appraisal amount Friday afternoon, city officials were unavailable to divulge it.

It's also unknown why the entire square footage wasn't appraised, along with the value of the development contract for the City Hall remodel with Hunt.

City Attorney Jim True said the city is waiting for a written appraisal from Gold on the Hopkins property. However, Gold said Friday he hasn't been asked yet to do that.

True said the city will likely write a factual summary regarding the ballot question and the appraisal information could be provided in that.

"At some point council wants that information out, or some council members do," he said.

True added that the factual summary must provide both sides of the issue but cannot offer a preference. There is no deadline for that summary and it can be distributed however the city would like, he said.

Council can pass a resolution endorsing one option over the other, and individual members can campaign for whatever preference they like, True said.

Mayor Steve Skadron said he supports releasing whatever appraisal is available.

"Everything else we do is public, it's a matter of transparency," he said, adding he also supports individual campaigning.

"I think council members should push the option that they feel best serves the community's interest," Skadron said.

The ballot question is a result of a lawsuit settlement between the city and two Aspen residents who sued the government last year. Marcia Goshorn and Steve Goldenberg, with the assistance of Snowmass Canyon resident Toni Kronberg, filed suit after they were denied their request to put the city's ordinance approving the municipal office building at Rio Grande and Galena Plaza to a vote via referendum.


Pitkin County’s alert system upgrade requires re-up for users

The Pitkin Alert system is undergoing an upgrade and subscribers must register for alerts they currently receive or they will stop next month.

"Everybody has to select new (alert) categories because they will stop sending them to the old categories by Oct. 1," Brett Loeb, director of the Pitkin County Emergency Dispatch Center, said Friday.

The new alerts will be grouped into four categories — emergency, community, school and business, he said. Pitkin Alert subscribers will then be able to choose which types of alerts they want under those four categories.

In addition, subscribers will be able to receive alerts based on geography rather than topic, Loeb said. For example, people will be able to receive Aspen-area only alerts, he said.

"People were more interested in where things are happening rather than what is happening," he said. "So (the new alerts) will be geographically based rather than subject-based."

Another new feature, which came out of the Lake Christine Fire in the Basalt area this summer, is that all alerts will be available in Spanish, Loeb said.

Alerts for the fire were translated in Spanish, but that does not normally happen with all alerts, said Valerie MacDonald, Pitkin County's emergency manager. That prompted a request from a Spanish speaker for the feature to be applied across the board, which probably should have occurred before, she said.

"We have a bilingual community," MacDonald said. "It's crucial that we be able to contact them in an emergency."

Weather alerts also will change a bit, Loeb said. Instead of being issued by dispatchers after notification from the National Weather Service, the alerts will instead come directly from the weather service, he said.

All alerts also will be posted to Pitkin Alert's Facebook page and Twitter account, Loeb said.

Disabled residents also might want to take note of the upgraded system, MacDonald said. They can identify their disability through the alert system so that responders during an emergency will know who and where they are and check on them if possible, she said.

"In the world of emergency management, early alerts are everything," MacDonald said. "The more we can alert the public what's coming their way, the better."

Another feature of the new system will allow cellphone users to text a particular word or phrase — "Lake Christine Fire" for example — which will automatically corral them into a group text model with just alerts about that topic, Loeb said. The idea was tested Labor Day Weekend during Jazz Aspen Snowmass, though the county didn't have enough time to really get the word out about the feature, he said. It allows interested parties to receive information without going through the Pitkin Alert sign-up process, Loeb said.

The upgrade to the Pitkin Alert system cost $5,000, Loeb said, which will be paid by the Upper Roaring Fork Valley public safety agencies that fund the emergency dispatch center.

To register for the new Pitkin Alerts, go to pitkinalert.org and either log in and choose your new options if you're a previous subscriber or sign up for a new account.