Basalt fire department ignites plan to add worker housing
BASALT – There has been a lot of talk about building affordable housing in Basalt over the past few years. Now the fire department is taking action.
The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District plans to add four residences to its fire station in Basalt, near the entrance to Elk Run. The units will be rented to volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians or other employees of the fire department. The units will play an important role in recruiting emergency responders and maintaining paid staff and volunteers over the years, said John Young, a member of the fire district’s board of directors.
At times in recent years, the number of volunteers who could work out of the Basalt station dwindled to a handful, he said. Now the number of volunteers from the immediate Basalt area has increased, but the board still believes the housing will be essential because of property values and the cost of living.
If the district cannot rent the units to emergency responders, the second priority will be other essential town government workers, such as cops or snowplow operators. If there is still no demand, they will be available to the public using the town’s affordable housing guidelines.
The Basalt Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to give first-round approval to the project. A second approval is needed.
The town and fire district didn’t establish how long the units must sit empty before they get offered to the next lowest priority of potential renters. Young said there may be times when a unit sits empty while the fire department tries to recruit the right worker. The housing will be used in the benefit package. He asked the council to trust the fire district board on the matter. He noted that the board members are elected officials and it behooves them to rent an asset rather than let it sit empty.
Young said the fire district hopes to break ground by August and have the roof and walls up before the snow falls. The district picked a perfect time to build since construction work is so slow during the recession. Young said 24 contractors placed bids on the job, exemplifying the interest in work right now. The list was narrowed to five, and the fire district board will soon select the winner.
The employee housing will be one phase of a remodel of the Basalt fire station. A second phase will be the addition of 2,100 square feet of parking and maintenance space for equipment. A third phase will be 1,900 square feet of staff quarters, essentially a day room for on-call personnel.
The fire district built a station and administrative office in El Jebel in 1999.
The district’s project will require the Basalt police department to vacate the space it leases at the Basalt fire station. The town inked a deal for a permanent cop shop in the Two Rivers Plaza building, according to Town Manager Bill Kane.
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