Basalt spends $1.6M on new site for public works
Purchase ends town government’s 14-year search
Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night voted 6-1 to spend $1.6 million to buy three-quarters of an acre of land near Willits as a base for its public works department.
The council debated several aspects of the potential purchase for months, mostly in closed-door meetings called executive sessions. Town officials were finally able to resolve issues to the satisfaction of the council majority. One of the biggest issues was cleaning up access to and from the site off of Highway 82 to the satisfaction of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The property is sandwiched between the Aspen Basalt Campground and the Midvalley Medical Center, with access from Original Road, then a driveway. The town is buying the land from Shelton Properties LLC, which currently uses the site for storage of construction materials.
The sale was under contract for $1.825 million. It was negotiated down to $1.6 million, according to town attorney Jeff Conklin.
Basalt has been looking for a site for its growing public works department since 2006. The existing public works building and storage yard on Fiou Lane in Southside cannot handle the demands any longer, said town manager Ryan Mahoney.
“The demand for services has really gone up,” he said.
The Willits site is in an industrial area and close to where Basalt sees a lot of demand for public works services, he said.
At Fiou Lane, the town uses a four-bay garage purchased from the town of Basalt 20 years ago and reassembled at the site. Setbacks for a town water well and a conservation easement on adjacent property prohibit expansion at the site, he said.
A town staff memo to council laid out some of the history of the search.
“Town staff looked at eight or more properties in the last few years and for various reasons these were not suitable for our needs,” the memo said. “The Shelton site became available for sale at the beginning of 2020 and was identified as a suitable site from which to base our operations.”
For a while earlier this year, it looked like acquiring a public works site — not the sexiest of municipal goals — would stall again.
“When COVID hit, we hit the pause button,” Mahoney said of negotiations. It got back on track last summer.
The property can be purchased while still maintaining adequate reserves in the budget, Mahoney said. “We were fortunate to have a good tax year.”
Mayor Bill Kane said investment in infrastructure makes good sense.
“We have the cash. We have the ability to do this,” he said. “I say we act now and acquire this parcel and secure our future.”
Councilman Bill Infante cast the dissenting vote. He said council was spending too much money on a piece of property that might not be adequate for the growth of the public works department. He urged the board to keep looking, with the help of a real estate professional, to see if a better site can be found. Larger sites can be found for less money, he claimed.
“My feeling is we can do a hell of a lot better for our residents and taxpayers,” Infante said.
Kane said nearly everyone buying real estate in the Roaring Fork Valley could complain about paying too much. That’s particularly true for undeveloped land because it is in such short supply, he said.
Basalt resident and real estate agent Stacey Kraft also urged the board to keep looking. If the town hired a real estate agent, it could potentially find property that isn’t actively being marketed.
Like Infante, Kraft said the town was overpaying and that its process of vetting the Shelton property wasn’t transparent.
State law allows local governments to hold executive sessions for contract negotiations.
The town commissioned an appraisal that valued the property at $1.78 million.
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