Basalt library director can’t afford to stay in job |

Basalt library director can’t afford to stay in job

Scott Condon

The director of the Basalt Regional Library is closing the book on this chapter of his life and resigning because he cannot find affordable housing.Robb Heckel said he will leave the position Jan. 1 after concluding he and his wife cannot afford to buy a house in the Roaring Fork Valley. He said he knew housing prices were high when he accepted the position last spring, but he thought he and his wife could find something suitable to buy. They couldn’t – so he has been commuting from Colorado Springs, where his wife remains in the house they own.That commute is wearing him down this winter because the drive is significantly longer when Independence Pass is closed. “My family is three mountain passes away,” he lamented.The timing is ironic. After nursing the library through its toughest financial struggle ever in 2004, the facility finally has a decent budget to work with in 2005. Voters in the district approved a property tax hike in November to increase library operating revenues. Heckel helped with the successful campaign.The budget for the facility is increasing from $330,000 in 2004 to $597,000 next year. The additional funds will allow the library to accomplish many of Heckel’s goals – increase the number of speakers and presentations for adults; buy more videos, DVDs, tapes and compact discs; and replace the aging fleet of computers with a greater number of upgraded models.The library will also add one professional-level staff member and two part-time workers to help cover the circulation desk.Peter Frey, a member of the library district’s board of directors, said Heckel’s resignation was a surprise even though the board questioned whether he could afford to live in the valley when he accepted the position.”It’s beginning to look like this is a fit that isn’t going to work,” Frey said.He said the director’s departure was Heckel’s decision alone. Frey said Heckel was a very “capable” director who had ambitious plans for improving the library.Heckel found that changes he wanted to implement in six months would take more like six years. “Change comes slowly to a small town,” Frey said, adding that might have contributed to Heckel’s decision.The resignation leaves the library searching for its fourth director in about two years. Heckel’s predecessors, Jean Winkler and Linda Levy, also resigned.The position currently pays $56,000 with no health or retirement benefits. The salary will increase by about 12 percent to $62,000 in 2005, Frey said.Heckel said his departure is just something that happens and shouldn’t reflect negatively on the library.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is