I was dismayed to read the unfair attack on a candidate for the Basalt Town Council in Wednesday’s Aspen Times (“Basalt candidate OK’d illegal home,” page A1). Scott Condon’s article is based on a misunderstanding of the construction approval process.
He also chose to use a highly biased witness. Applications for new construction are initially reviewed by the planning department. The planning staff examines the architectural drawings and determines whether the plans meet the town’s guidelines for setbacks, height restrictions and total square footage, among other things.
The building inspector enters the process later to verify that the building meets construction codes in respect to plumbing, electrical wiring, structural integrity and resistance to fire.
In this case, the planning department apparently accepted the applicant’s square-footage calculation for the house at 128 Ridge Road without verifying the number from the blueprint. Mark Kittle, in his role as building inspector, is being attacked for trusting the work of his colleagues in the planning department.
In questioning Mark’s actions, Scott liberally quoted Betsy Suerth. Scott failed to mention that Betsy worked for several years in the same office as Mark and often disagreed with Mark on approval decisions and also often disagreed with her boss at that time, Bob Gish. It is well-known that no love was lost between Betsy and Mark. Scott also failed to mention that Betsy is the former wife of one of Mark’s competitors for a town council position, Jim Paussa. Betsy is not exactly a neutral third party.
My wife and I built a home in Basalt in 1999. Mark was the building inspector. He did his job carefully and professionally without cutting any corners. He noted several construction problems that my contractor promptly fixed.
As new homeowners, Ruth and I were pleased that Mark’s inspections led to better construction and a safer home. We thought that Mark did an excellent job. Apparently, the residents of Snowmass Village agree, since they recently hired Mark to be their building inspector.
The readers of The Aspen Times should expect more from their local newspaper. Questioning the integrity of a building inspector is a serious matter. Publishing a biased, inaccurate story in the guise of investigative reporting is a disservice to the community.
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