Aspen can afford Iselin – barely |

Aspen can afford Iselin – barely

Janet Urquhart

The latest construction estimates for the planned recreational complex at Iselin Park indicate the city can pull the project off – but just barely.

The $17 million estimate that has been bandied about lately is actually a tad high, based on the latest calculations by Shaw Construction, which was hired to oversee the design/bid stage.

Working with the most detailed plans for the project yet available, Shaw is estimating a total construction cost of $16.8 million, including $300,000 for one employee housing unit planned as part of the project. The housing wasn’t part of the old $17 million projected price tag for the recreational facilities, which will cost an estimated $16.5 million to build, according to the latest estimates.

The new estimate does not include planned future pedestrian overpasses spanning Maroon Creek Road and Maroon Creek.

“It pleases us that [the cost] went down a little bit instead of up a little bit,” said Ed Sadler, the city’s assets manager.

The estimate is good news in Aspen’s highly competitive construction market, where costs seem to escalate daily and the city typically sees bids for projects that far exceed the anticipated price.

Nonetheless, Mayor Rachel Richards is viewing the new estimate for Iselin cautiously.

“These are our best estimates. Until we go to bid, none of that is firm,” she said. “Until you have a contract, they are estimates.”

City officials hope to rip out the existing pool at Iselin Park this spring and begin construction of a new facility that will include two new swimming pools, an ice rink and a new Aspen Youth Center. Construction is expected to take 18 months, Sadler said.

The Iselin proposal is currently in the midst of its review by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will make a recommendation to the City Council.

There has been talk lately of the need to tweak the pool design and construct an Olympic-sized ice rink instead of the NHL-sized rink that is planned. But Richards worries that delays in construction and more redesign work will push the cost of the project out of sight.

“We are doing everything we can there financially,” she said. “It’s literally everything we can afford to put into this design.”

The Iselin project has grown substantially from the original plan to simply replace the aging James E. Moore Pool with a new swimming pool. The latest plan calls for both a warm-water leisure pool and a lap pool with a diving area at one end.

The recreation bond passed by voters in 1999, however, included just $4 million for one pool, so the city has looked elsewhere to come up with the dollars to cover the added expense of the expanded plan.

The council has allocated $1.45 million from cash reserves to help fund construction, Richards noted. The city also won approval from the voters to put about $2 million in excess property taxes collected over a five-year period toward the project.

As plans for the facility progressed, the City Council also found itself tapping into the city’s general fund for $1.4 million to buy the existing youth center. The city has the right of first refusal on the property, so when center officials decided they wanted to build a new facility at Iselin, the city was forced to come up with the cash to buy the existing youth center. That was an expenditure that was not anticipated when the planning for Iselin began, Richards said.

The $8 million ice rink is to be funded through private donations now being collected by a local group.

The city hopes to begin work at Iselin on the heels of the Truscott Place housing expansion and golf course work, allowing contractors to move from one project to the next, Sadler said. In addition, Richards said she wants to see the construction contracts for Iselin signed before the Aspen School District puts its $41 million high school expansion out for bid.

“I’m very concerned about getting a competitive bid and getting a bid contract out there soon,” Richards said. “One feature change and a three-month delay could cost this project a million dollars.

“I think it is a fabulous design, and I think it’s an amenity we can all enjoy. . I hope we can afford to build it,” she said.

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