Basalt voters will likely be asked to fund new town hall, housing and green projects |

Basalt voters will likely be asked to fund new town hall, housing and green projects

Council will finalize ballot question at Aug. 24 meeting

Flowers bloom around Basalt Town Hall on a warm summer day on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Basalt Town Council is leaning toward asking voters in November to fund a new town hall along with affordable housing and “green” projects.

A special committee appointed by the council recommended last week to pursue the town hall, affordable housing and green initiatives, with no ranking on priority. However, town residents and business owners who attended a recent open house ranked redoing the Midland Avenue streetscape higher than a new town hall. Residents also favored affordable housing and green initiatives in their top three priorities.

The council members met in a work session Monday night to rank their priorities.

“I think it’s good to stick with the committees. That’s why we have them,” Councilman Glenn Drummond said.

But Councilwoman Elyse Hottel said it would be wise to follow the public’s direction.

“I’m not sure the public wants a new town hall as much as (town officials) do,” Hottel said.

She said she understands the need for a new facility but would prefer to not spend so much of the town’s capital improvement funds on one project. The preliminary price tag on a new, energy efficient town hall is $10 million. The town is considering seeking about $15 million in bonds for all projects on its wish list. Hottel said that doesn’t leave enough for affordable housing and green projects.

Councilman Ryan Slack said he understands the need for a new town hall, but he is struggling with the projected price. Mayor Bill Kane said cost cutting by town officials and value engineering would reduce the projected $10 million price.

“I think the budget for that building can be pared down and probably pretty significantly,” Kane said.

He also said the town would boost its image by replacing the 43-year-old building in Lions Park. It was built on a shoestring budget in 1978.

“It’s honestly kind of an energy hog,” Kane said. “It does not speak well for our community.”

Proposed ballot language is vague on the affordable housing and green projects. The affordable housing would include acquiring and developing real property and acquiring other interests in real property.

The green projects could include solar development, vehicle charging stations and other clean energy improvements.

Councilman Bill Infante warned that the wording is too vague to likely garner much enthusiasm among voters. He said he would prefer more details.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum agreed that seeking money for affordable housing without a specific project could be a “tough sell.”

Town consultant Bill Ray said people will realize that $4 million or so for affordable housing wouldn’t go very far given real estate prices and the cost of construction in the Roaring Fork Valley. However, the funds would expand the town’s “toolkit” in providing affordable housing, he said.

Ray noted that awareness of the need for affordable housing have never been greater than now, especially in mountain resorts.

“Housing, housing, housing is on the top of everyone’s mind,” he said.

The council didn’t take a formal vote but a straw poll indicated a 6-1 vote to pursue funding for a town hall, affordable housing and green projects. The town will seek an extension on existing property taxes that would otherwise expire when bonds get paid off over the next couple of years.

The council will finalize ballot wording at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.