City of Aspen to hire more employees

Moratorium on residential development leads to new position; more use at recreation facilities and labor shortages means more demand that staff can’t keep up with

In addition to the eight new full-time employees added to the city of Aspen’s roster this year amounting to $1.6 million in new expenditures, three more positions have been created and were authorized last week by Aspen City Council.

The addition of a planner in the community development department, an arts grants coordinator at the Red Brick Arts Center and a facilities maintenance mechanic in the parks and open space department amount to $322,470, which covers six months of salary this year and ongoing salary requests in the future.

Council approved on first reading the new expenditures as part of the annual spring supplemental to the budget in which increases in total expenditure appropriations went from $168.5 million to $211.3 million.

That $42.8 million increase includes $782,640 in new requests; $31.8 million in operating and capital carryforward requests; $7 million worth of technical adjustments; and $3.1 million in departmental savings. There are $2.6 million in revenue adjustments and transfers, according to Andrew Kramer, the city’s budget manager.

The three new positions were not incorporated into the initial 2022 budget and reflect recommendations to address staffing needs or support council goals, Kramer told council during its regular meeting on April 12.

The addition of a planner at an annual cost of $109,370 and a one-time expenditure of $5,600 is to augment the workload in the community development department as part of the residential moratorium that council enacted on Dec. 8.

While the moratorium is in place, staff is undertaking significant research, community engagement and code amendments, requiring increased planning staff to implement, Kramer said.

The resulting new policies and regulations require additional capacity to manage after council adoption, and the department’s expanded regulatory and programmatical obligations from the moratorium work necessitates more staff, he noted.

Council last week also approved the addition of a facilities maintenance mechanic in the parks and open space fund with an ongoing annual salary of $107,200 and $53,600 for six months in 2022.

The position is being created to fulfill all the needs for the city’s facilities, which is currently not happening.

The Aspen Ice Garden as seen on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

There are six full-time employees who have a collective responsibility for facilities management for the Aspen Recreation Center, Aspen Ice Garden, Red Brick Center for the Arts, the Red Brick Recreation Center, Aspen Golf clubhouse and parks department campus buildings.

“This is a position that the parks and rec group has requested to help address a very large backlog of service requests for facilities maintenance in all of our facilities,” Kramer said.

“The complete facility maintenance and management needs of these facilities are not being fully met on an annual basis with important maintenance and management actions being deferred due to volume of workload,” Kramer wrote in a memo to council. “In 2021 the facilities team staff logged 3,188 work orders between the six facilities with 1,131 of those 2021 work orders being deferred due to staff availability.”

The third permanent position that council approved is an arts programming coordinator for an annual ongoing cost of $44,100 and a one-time expenditure of $2,600.

Funding for this position is offset by a transfer from the city’s arts and culture fund and increased revenue through the addition of youth and adult arts education and gallery programming.

Within the first year, a 25% to 40% increase in programming and gallery revenues could likely be achieved. After the first year, additional revenues increase will be evaluated, according to city officials.

The coordinator will allow for the Red Brick Center for the Arts to expand its programming in response to the current high demand, further its reach and service to the community, and allow for the development of new arts and cultural initiatives and partnerships with the city, Kramer noted.

Finally, council authorized the creation of three new full-time positions in the city’s recreation department but they require no new expenditures.

The move is meant to move away from temporary labor and reduce service disruption.

“The recreation department is trying a new staffing model to make sure that they have the necessary staff to keep open and keep the facilities running at the appropriate level,” Kramer told council.

The first position is a maintenance technician to help clean the ARC during high-use programs and events.

In the first quarter of 2021, the recreation department was approved for two temporary full-time recreation specialists to support front-line operations.

Council gave authority to make those two positions permanent.

The recreation department is dependent on seasonal and part-time staff to operate facilities and programs but has not been able to keep up with basic service levels with the current seasonal and part-time staff model.

“Over the past nine months, we have had to close and reduce facilities hours due to seasonal staff shortages,” Kramer’s memo reads. “The department has had to cancel multiple programs due to these continued seasonal staff shortages.”

The ARC normally operates 96 hours per week, but a lack of front-line staff is causing major facility closures and reduced hours.

The approved full-time staff will help support full operational hours at the ARC and Red Brick facilities.


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