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City staff to grow in 2001

Janet Urquhart

Six new staff positions in Aspen’s city government are included in the 2001 budget slated for adoption next month.

The City Council gave an informal nod to the additions during a budget work session this week. The positions will cost $239,366 to fund next year.

Two of the positions, a purchasing officer for $62,000 and a $25,000 marketing position for the golf/recreation program, are expected to pay for themselves and will be eliminated after a year if they do not, according to Tabatha Miller, city finance director.

Another post – an individual who will join the finance department to study “economic sustainability” issues – is listed as a one-year position with a one-time cost of $47,000.

The need for two additional positions in the planning department, a $53,000 affordable housing planner and a $27,366 affordable housing plans examiner/field inspector, are driven by the number of government and private housing projects coming before the staff, according to Julie Ann Woods, the city’s head planner. Pitkin County will fund the other half of the plans examiner’s salary.

Finally, the city has budgeted $25,000 for the project manager of a proposed detox center, though plans for the center are still up in the air; the position may not be filled next year.

The economic sustainability position will give Aspen a staffer who can continue with the city’s efforts to develop an annual cost-of-living index and complete a wage study that is under way, according to Miller. The individual will also study zoning changes contemplated by the city to determine their impact on businesses.

“We really want to get a better perspective of this community economically,” she told the council.

The economic sustainability portion of the recently updated Aspen Area Community Plan is the weakest section in the plan, agreed Mayor Rachel Richards.

“We’re really losing a lot of the businesses that make this community what it is,” said Councilman

Jim Markalunas. “How do you keep a vacuum repairman in town? How do you keep a barber in town?”

The purchasing officer is expected to pay for itself and then some through coordinated purchasing for the city’s various departments, according to Miller. “If it doesn’t, you obviously would get rid of the position,” she told the council.

“We’ve always thought that if we had a person who was dedicated to purchasing, we would be able to do a much better job and that it would pay for itself,” Miller said. “Our hope is to increase efficiency citywide, as well as saving money.”

The marketing position, a shared post between the Aspen Municipal Golf Course, recreation department and Aspen Ice Garden, also is not supposed to actually cost the city any money.

“We’re very confident this person is going to bring in more money than we’re spending,” said Tim Anderson, recreation director.

The individual will work to increase the number of rounds played at the golf course and boost sponsorships for recreation and the Ice Garden, he said.

The two planning department posts dedicated to housing are both budgeted as three-year positions, to be funded with the city’s housing/day care sales tax. The cost of planning time for private projects that include affordable housing will be billed to the developers; work done for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority won’t be billed, explained Woods.

Woods said her staff is reviewing so many priority housing projects and trying to expedite their reviews by the city’s various boards, other work is falling by the wayside.

“Most of the projects we’re seeing have a component of affordable housing,” she said.

In addition to the planning department posts, two more housing positions received approval during 2000 budget deliberations but have never been filled. They include an assistant project manager and a financial coordinator.

A director of development and construction and two project managers were hired by the Housing Authority in 2000, according to Mary Roberts, housing director.

The total personnel budget assigned to the city for project development in the joint city/county Housing Authority is $579,803, she said in a report to the council.


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