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Aspen council meets with parks department

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Imagine a two-hour Aspen City Council work session in which council members rarely speak.

That’s exactly what occurred late Tuesday afternoon during a “meet and greet” involving the council, city Parks Department staff and Aspen Open Space and Trails board members at the Parks Department’s headquarters off Cemetery Lane.

The gathering was the first of many monthly meetings designed to give the city’s elected officials an opportunity to meet employees of all 20 departments while discussing projects, operations and equipment in the workers’ own setting, outside the confines of City Hall.

“We want to get better insights into both the successes and the hindrances to your jobs,” Councilman Torre said after Parks Department presentations on future projects, a casual tour of offices and introductions of several workers.

“I’ll speak for myself now – my job as a council member is to make your jobs doable and to make your jobs easier,” Torre said. “Somebody said, ‘It’s been great to come down here and hear so much positivity.’ You look around this room, and you see the team you guys have together. And you have some great leadership that helped build this team.”

Earlier, Stephen Ellsperman, the city’s parks and open space director, ran down a list of 2012-13 projects to be financed through bond-issue proceeds. Money generated through a longtime, voter-approved sales tax dedicated to parks and open space will cover the bond payments and associated costs.

In a November 2000 election, Aspen voters gave the city authority to issue as much as $38 million in bonds “for the purpose of improving and maintaining trail, recreation and open space properties and ancillary properties,” city government memorandums have stated.

More than two-thirds of that $38 million bonding authority has been used to date. For the 2012-13 project cycle, the Parks Department wants to spend $3.8 million, plus $82,000 in costs, on the following initiatives:

• $100,000 for a new restroom facility at Rio Grande Park next to the Theatre Aspen tent.

• $418,000 for continued stormwater drainage improvements at Rio Grande Park, a project that began last year and will expand during the summer and fall of 2012.

• $750,000 for the balance the city owes on the Droste property acquisition that is being integrated into the new Sky Mountain Park open-space territory.

• $750,000 for the redevelopment of Galena Plaza next to the Pitkin County Library.

• $225,000 for a new pumphouse that would provide fresh water to putting greens at Aspen Golf Club.

• $220,000 to replace the Bob Helm Bridge on Maroon Creek below the golf course.

• $1.23 million for an irrigation and drainage overhaul of Wagner Park.

The different projects are in various stages of design, planning and construction.

Mayor Mick Ireland told the workers of recent contact with a resident who questioned the way the city spends its tax revenue:

“I was pretty mad about that because it has that (suggestion) that I’m spending it on myself,” Ireland said. “If you know me, you know I don’t spend much money on myself, and if you know my car, you’re sure of it.

“I finally wrote back to the guy and said, ‘That’s what people elected us to do here. They gave us that money in trust to do good things with it. It’s not my money, it’s not council’s money, it’s your money and everybody’s money, and you’re making more value out of this than it would be if each of us had an extra case of beer a year.'”

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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