City of Aspen Building and Engineering departments may move to Mill Street |

City of Aspen Building and Engineering departments may move to Mill Street

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council directed city staff to move forward with a Mill Street space as a possible replacement site for the city’s Building and Engineering departments during a work session Monday night.

During the work session, city Capital Asset Manager Jack Wheeler and Public Works Director Scott Miller presented three replacement space options — one at Mill Street, Rio Grande Place and Truscott, respectively.

Staff recommended the purchase of the Mill Street units as the most fiscally responsible and flexible alternative, according to a memo from Wheeler and Miller.

While the departments are two separate city of Aspen operations, Wheeler said, “It is very important that they stay together” because their services go hand in hand.

Talk of relocating the city’s Building and Engineering departments started when the city lost its lease on the departments’ current 5,400-square-foot space on Hopkins Avenue.

At a work session in November, the council approved a temporary space plan to address space needs as they arise, the memo said. While the building’s new owner originally requested that the city vacate the building by the end of 2015, after negotiating with the owner, the city now has until March 31.

The city will be able to move into whichever of the three options it chooses no later than Jan. 1, which allows it three months to prepare for occupancy, the memo said.

While the council did indicate preference of the Mill Street space over the other two options, whether it chooses to purchase or rent the space remains in question.

“I think we need to be careful with this,” Councilman Adam Frisch said. “I’m not a huge fan of renting things when we can own them.”

Councilwoman Ann Mullins said the city would need to look closely at the advantages of renting the space before deciding whether to rent or purchase.

“I don’t have great faith that we’re going to make a ton of money selling in a few years,” Mullins said. “I think we need a really strong justification if we say we need to buy this space.”

The council requested that the staff return with financial specifics of leasing versus purchasing the Mill Street space.

“An explanation of how either option fits into the bigger plan for the city is needed” in order to move forward with the decision, Mayor Steve Skadron said.

In other council news, Valley Health Alliance presented an approach to bringing better health care to the valley during Monday night’s work session.

The group discussed issues with the current health care model, including “our cultural problem of overutilization,” Valley Health Alliance Chairman John Sarpa said, as well as mental health in the valley because of Pitkin County’s high rates of suicide and depression.

Valley Health Alliance also identified goals such as improving health in the valley, enhancing efficiency, leveraging collective size and scale, reducing health care costs and “disrupting the status quo.”

While the council indicated interest in Valley Health Alliance’s “cutting-edge, groundbreaking” approach, as Councilman Art Daily said, it’s far too early to talk implementation.

Valley Health Alliance consists of the five largest self-insured employers in Pitkin County — the Aspen School District, Aspen Valley Hospital, the city of Aspen, the county and Aspen Skiing Co.

Per the council’s request, the group will return to it with more budgeting and cost information sometime in October, Skadron said.