City Council starts examining 2024 budget; parking enforcement and translation services discussed

Traffic moves across the Castle Creek Bridge due to bridge construction in Aspen on October 8, 2019. How to improve traffic flow there is sure to be a hotly debated subject during budget discussions for 2024.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

City Council launched discussions Aspen’s 2024 budget with Monday and Tuesday work sessions. Aspen forecast $191 million in revenues — a more than a $4 million increase from this year. But money may not be able to handle everything Mother Nature throws at Aspen this winter.

Streets Supervisor Daniel Maldonado explained to council members Aspen faces a worrisome shortage of drivers skilled in towing and snow removal. There were also concerns expressed about the impact on underground pipes of the huges amounts of sand and gravel spread above on Aspen’s snowy streets.

City council and city staff will continue discussions this autumn. There will be time then scheduled for public comment, they said.

The total $102 milliion operating budget includes $99 million base budget plus $3 million in supplementals.

The 2024 budget lists improvements to beloved sites, including $920,000 for the Armory. (There will be what City Manager Sara Ott described as a “long” discussion of the Armory project in November.) The budget also lists $3.84 million for preservation of the historic Powerhouse Building. The animal shelter would get $450,000, mostly to upgrade its heating system among other improvements.

Much of Tuesday’s work session focused on street, parking, and traffic improvements. Councilman Bill Guth said on Tuesday that he had “indigestion” when he saw the “Castle Creek Bridge Awareness campaign” listed by the Parking and Transportation Department as a “win” in its presentation of its portion of the budget. He said that too often what should have been an educational presentation of different ways to resolve the traffic problem there felt like “advocacy.”

He asked that information be presented in an unbiased way in the future.

On the topic of parking ticket scofflaws, Parking and Transportation Director Pete Rice said technology could be used to improve parking compliance downtown by targeting blocks where violations were common. He said his department staff act as ambassadors, showing visitors how to operate parking kiosks and giving directions, but the department is short-staffed, so technology would be a boon.

“I’m lukewarm on this,” Mayor Torre said, indicating he would like to see more research on the effectiveness of such technology.

He wasn’t worried about increased parking enforcement would discourage visitors.

“You can’t discourage people from coming to Aspen,” He said.

Guth disagreed: “People can decide to go to Basalt instead of Aspen.”

Changes in Aspen’s demographics were reflected in the budget, including a $28,000 request for translation software. On Monday, Ott noted that there’s an increased need for people to translate documents, at in-person meetings, and at public events. Translators were especially needed for Spanish but also sign language.

Under city employee housing, the budget mentions conversion of the “Main Street cabin” (currently used as office space) into two employee housing units. The cabin’s 2024 appropriation is $2.4 million.

Council members felt the $55,000 employees’ appreciation fund that covers barbecues and gift cards for exemplary city employee service was well-deserved. Ott said she had ended her predecessor’s practice of having city employees donate their own money to their own appreciation fund.


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