Aspen City Council OKs three new positions to tackle projects |

Aspen City Council OKs three new positions to tackle projects

Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon described the staff of his city department not as burned out but headed in that direction.

“One of the things I pay attention to is just how people are functioning,” he said. “Are they healthy, are they showing up for work, are we having sick-outs — what does it look like on a day-to-day basis?” Bendon told the City Council during a work session Tuesday.

“I see people working really hard; I don’t yet see people having stress-related conditions that are starting to affect their jobs,” he continued. “But I’ve been there before, and I know what the run-up looks like, and I know what kind of path we are potentially on.”

Bendon and City Engineer Tricia Aragon addressed council members to make the case for creating three new positions in city government to help deal with the burgeoning development caseload. The council agreed to the midyear budget request of $262,000, which will be formalized as a supplemental budget appropriation sometime this summer.

Numerous small and large projects in the pipeline — not all of them the “headline grabbers” that have gotten media attention, Bendon explained — could put the city in the position it was in from 2006 to 2008. In those three years, project review and inspection times were extremely backed up, relationships with developers and contractors deteriorated, and morale among city planning and building staff was low, he said.

The building division of Community Development wants to bring on an administrative assistant and a plans examiner at a combined cost of $149,000 per year, according to a city staff memorandum. The Engineering Department needs a development engineer at an estimated cost of $113,000, the memo said.

“I just want to paint a picture of what (Engineering) is experiencing right now,” Aragon said. “We came to council earlier this year and asked for a consultant to help us out with reviews. So we’re outsourcing as much as we can to help with the workload. We looked internally in the department to see where we could shift activities to try and focus our attention to doing planning reviews and associated inspections.

“We’ve thrown as much as we can at it, and we are drowning,” she added. “It’s taking us way too much time to get to a plan because we’re so backlogged right now with permit reviews. I’m not coming with this request without serious reflection on the department. … It’s a dire situation, at least from my department.”

Aragon also said that the numerous city regulations on development naturally have an effect on staff workload. She said she has asked developers and contractors for input about streamlining the processes, but many are reluctant to step forward.

Councilman Adam Frisch suggested that it’s important that municipal regulations maintain a balance between protecting the community and simplifying the review-and-inspection process for projects.

“I think we can get a better process that will make your lives easier,” he told Bendon and Aragon.

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