City of Aspen planting the seeds of summer with fewer hands
Officials are wishing workers grew on trees so they’d have enough to plant flowers around town
The city of Aspen is feeling the effects of the labor shortage all the way to the roots of its flower program this spring.
The city’s parks department is low on seasonal workers this year and short of help from temporary agencies, it’s slim pickings on finding enough people to plant hundreds of flowers that adorn the downtown core, parks and area gardens.
“We do have a much smaller crew than we’ve traditionally had,” said Matt Kuhn, the city’s parks and open space director, noting it might take longer to get all the flowers planted than it has in the past. “It’s hard to meet our normal standards because we don’t have the same amount of people.”
The city has relied on temporary workers, but even last year none were available and employees from other departments in the municipal government pitched in to help.
The city spends roughly between $30,000 and $40,000 a year on flowers. Crews start planting June 1, hoping to get all of them in the ground by the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, typically held the third weekend of June.
“It’s a full-court press for three weeks,” Kuhn said. “They start from the downtown core and work their way out.”
He said he is holding out hope that temporary workers will come through in the next couple of weeks, but he has backup plans just in case.
“We are short but we have plan A, B and C,” Kuhn said.
The issue was brought up last week at a city Commercial Core and Lodging Commission meeting, with that board’s members offering their time and expertise, if needed.
“People were all about helping the city out,” CCLC Chairperson Jeb Ball said. “CCLC has offered its services and will help with advertising or coordinate with the parks department.”
There are approximately 80 fenced-in boxes around the pedestrian malls in the downtown core, as well over 40 urns throughout town and dozens of beds in pocket parks, at the Aspen Recreation Center, the John Denver Sanctuary, Rio Grande Park and gardens around the old Armory Building on Galena Street.
“Our hope is we will get them all in the ground,” Kuhn said.
The parks department, whether it’s in maintenance or parks construction, is down at least six positions.
That is the case even with a wage increase from $18 to $20 an hour for entry-level jobs. Construction team members start at $22 an hour, Kuhn said.
The flower crew could use some help prepping the beds, which is a much more arduous and unglamorous job than the actual planting, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of beds to turn,” Kuhn said. “We’d be interested in hiring folks even if its temporary or part time for the summer.”
City of Aspen jobs can be found online at http://www.cityofaspen.com.
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