City of Aspen to add $1.6M in additional personnel next year
Eight new full-time employees will be added across departments in municipal government
The city of Aspen is adding eight full-time positions for next year, equating to an additional $1.6 million expense in the 2022 budget, which Aspen City Council approved on Tuesday.
A small portion of the $142 million budget is an investment in additional personnel in several departments across the organization, including the finance, communications, asset management and water utility departments, as well as the city manager’s office, the police department, the Wheeler Opera House and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.
Two positions are being added to the housing authority — a grants consultant and a policy analyst, the latter of which is permanent and the other is a one-time cost of $100,000.
The consultant will help answer the question of whether APCHA is eligible for current and upcoming grants, if there is new federal funding available and if a grants person specific for APCHA should be hired in the future, according to Assistant City Manager Diane Foster.
The policy analyst position is budgeted at $107,850, which includes all expenses related to the individual, including salary, benefits, work supplies, office space and other associated costs to the city, according to budget documents.
The position will help APCHA focus on policy, assist in strategic planning for the agency and will allow better responsiveness to council-driven requests and increased administrative support, according to city officials.
“It’s really to support policy work to move it more quickly (in APCHA),” said City Manager Sara Ott last week.
A full-time grants coordinator will be hired within the city manager’s office at a cost of $86,100, according to budget documents.
Alissa Farrell, the city’s administrative services director, explained to council during an Oct. 4 work session on the 2022 budget that the position is necessary as part of the recent overhaul of the grants program, which administers $1 million to nearly 90 organizations annually.
“Having a full-time, devoted centralized person who really owns this magnificent grants program of over $1 million in funding that’s awarded every year is necessary to continue to achieve that higher level of service to our community,” she said, noting that there will be some down time outside of the grant cycle that could be spent on continued improvements in the program and provide administration support for other departments.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said during the Oct. 4 work session that she supported the additional position.
“I think this is really valuable work to have on staff,” she said, adding it’s important to have the city be able to check in with the grantees during the year to see if they implemented the grants properly and are using the money for what they said they would. “I’m really on board with this.”
Ott said with last week’s passage of ballot measure 2A, which frees up real estate transfer tax dedicated to the Wheeler Opera House for more funding to local arts organizations, the grants coordinator is even more necessary.
In addition, the Wheeler Opera House next year will get a full-time theater technician that will cost $88,250 annually.
It was a previously termed position but city officials have recognized that it needs to be permanent with responsibilities that include theatrical rigging and lighting systems, as well as ensuring safety, quality and support for touring artists.
There also is a labor wage increase at the opera house of $48,450 to raise the pay for ticketing agents, house managers, technicians and cleaning staff.
Council in October signed off on a full-time maintenance technician with a salary of $107,160 to manage the new City Hall building, which has complicated and interconnected systems.
The Aspen Police Department is hiring a new officer, which combined with all expenses related to the position will cost $97,540 annually, according to budget documents.
The new officer will help the department focus on greater community policing efforts, which include a stronger presence in the downtown core.
“I would like officers out in the core on bikes and walking and doing officer-initiated policing and that takes more resources,” Ott said last week, noting that she anticipates retirements in the department coming in the near future and is phasing new officers in. “When we bring in a new officer, I want them well trained.”
The city’s water utility fund will hire a project manager for an annual salary of $121,270 to address a backlog in capital projects and aging infrastructure, according to budget documents.
The finance department is hiring a payroll technician at $90,160 a year to provide a backup to a single payroll specialist for audits and reduce financial risk to the city.
The city’s environmental health department is adding a new position that is termed and has a salary of $92,310.
It’s part of the department’s long-term strategy with waste diversion programs to establish an ongoing funding source that is not in the general fund, according to CJ Oliver, director of the city’s environmental and sustainability department.
“This termed position is currently part of the general fund for 2022 but our hope is to present funding options to council which would account for this position and other waste related programming,” he said. “ This is giving us a year to make that happen.”
That means it’s a full-time benefited position with only one year of dedicated funding for the 2022 budget.
The communications department is hiring two part-time interns to help with day-to-day tactical needs, as well as keep up with the city’s social media presence.
Ott said the new positions are designed to keep up with what’s necessary for the city to deliver services to its citizens.
“There’s some expectations that the community has and that requires resources,” she said.
A civil deputy kept her job and was mandated to undergo counseling after Aspen police arrested her in July on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving.
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