Aspen Fire, Pitkin County boards cordial in discussion about contract for airport

A meeting between the Aspen Fire District Board and the Pitkin County Commissioners on Tuesday focused on building a positive relationship between the two agencies. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

A meeting Tuesday between Pitkin County commissioners and the Aspen Fire District Board mostly avoided mention of recent controversies and focused on creating a positive working relationship between the entities.

“Any emergency at the airport will require all agencies to work together,” said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock. “We serve the public to the greatest degree possible.”

Commissioner Patti Clapper noted that since 1881 — when the Aspen’s volunteer fire department began — the Roaring Fork Valley has functioned under a “mutual aid environment” that she said needs to continue.

Controversy erupted last month when Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo sent a letter to a member of the Aspen Fire District Board criticizing Fire Chief Rick Balentine for fear-mongering and being uncooperative with other public safety agencies. DiSalvo cited what he said were Balentine’s poor working relationships with his agency, Pitkin County, Roaring Fork Fire and Rescue, the Pitkin County airport and the Aspen Ambulance District as proof of the rift.

DiSalvo attended Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak about the controversy, which grew out of the county’s efforts to cement a contract with Aspen Fire to respond to emergencies — especially structure fires — at the airport. That contract, or “memo of understanding,” remains unsigned between the entities, Pitkin County attorney John Ely said Tuesday.

Currently, Roaring Fork Fire and Rescue would the contracted entity that would respond to airport emergencies if that agency’s board approves it, despite the fact that the airport is within the Aspen Fire District.

However, Karl Hanlon, the Fire District’s attorney, told commissioners Tuesday that he and Ely are scheduled to meet Thursday to work on the airport agreement.

“It’s really good we’re sitting down and talking about this,” Commissioner Steve Child said.


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