Aspen City Council’s impasse on city hall likely means no November vote
Aspen City Council’s failure to crystallize plans for a new or remodeled City Hall likely means that the issue won’t go before voters in November.
On Tuesday morning, before Aspen City Council deadlocked on its decision, city officials in a meeting with local media members offered that a general obligation bond could be presented to the electorate.
“It could be, if the City Council were to give us directive immediately,” City Manager Steve Barwick said.
The city’s Capital Assets Department was in universal support of erecting the so-called one-roof solution, formally known as the Galena Option, a 52,000-square-foot City Hall that would house most civic offices. Plans called for it being built at 425 and 455 Rio Grande Place, which would put it near the Pitkin County Library and other government structures.
“We haven’t had any time to take a breath,” Capital Assets Manager Jack Wheeler said Wednesday. “We need to understand what the council needs before we set another work session.”
Preliminary estimates put a $31.3 million price tag on the Galena Option.
“In general, the Galena Option is $21 million in cash and financing of $10 million,” Barwick said.
That $21 million would come from the city’s general fund, which started the year with an opening balance of nearly $12 million, with as much as $28 million projected in revenue for 2016, according to city records.
The general fund supports such city services as administration, finance, recreation, planning and others. Other funds also would aid a new or improved City Hall.
“Remember, we’re housing a lot of different funds here,” he added. “We have the housing fund, … transportation, parking, all these others. And they will be putting money into it.”
He added, “It’s important for us because the real difficulties in funding come from the general fund. When you spend another $9 to $12 million, most of our funds are not impacted so that they’re going to have a really difficult time operating in the next 5 to 10 years, but the general fund will be curtailed in a variety of ways.”
The city manager said at the time it was plausible that a bond question for the Galena Option could be decided on in November. Another funding mechanism could be done through certificate of participation bonds, which don’t require voter approval.
Whatever direction the council takes with the future of its civic master plan, funding the project will be rife with complexities, Barwick said.
Currently, the city uses multiple buildings for its staffers, with the City Hall building at Galena and Hopkins as the anchor structure.
City Council members, while not able to agree in totality on one of the three options, are still mulling the possibility of renovating the existing City Hall or doing a hybrid approach with a new 33,000-square-foot civic building on Rio Grande Place. Or, it could return to the Galena Option.
“Nothing is off the table,” Wheeler said.
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