City unsure on Aspen hospital expansion
June 29, 2010
ASPEN – The City Council tabled a heated discussion Monday night on whether to implement the second phase of the Aspen Valley Hospital expansion.
The council asked for more information from hospital CEO Dave Ressler after more than four hours of public comment and debate over the project, which, if approved, would nearly triple the facility’s current size.
Council members and several citizens expressed concern that certain aspects of the expansion – mainly 27,000 square feet of new office space for doctors – go beyond the realm of what the hospital needs to continue the service it provides to the community.
“We need to be convinced that the request for that much office space is a need and not a want,” said Councilman Steve Skadron.
The hospital has already completed the first phase of the project, which included a new maternity ward.
New structures planned in the second phase include 18 affordable housing units, some with “tuck-under” parking facilities, and a new service road that will encompass the 18-acre property on which the hospital sits.
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Numerous hospital staffers voiced vehement support during the meeting for the new office space, as the current facility requires doctors to drive from town to attend to emergencies. Time spent battling traffic, they said, could in some cases mean the difference between a patient’s life or death.
Some residents have expressed concern that the project would be a medical redundancy in the valley, duplicating services that are offered by existing hospitals, namely Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
But Ressler said the hospital is simply trying to update its ability to provide the services in which it currently specializes.
“We’re behind the times; we’re just trying to catch up,” he said. “We’re 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag.”
Residents of nearby housing developments, including the Meadowood neighborhood, have said the noise produced by the hospital is a distraction, and are concerned that the expansion will increase that annoyance.
Hospital officials said the facility won’t get any louder and that AVH is working to find solutions to the noise problem, which is produced mainly by hospital HVAC (heating, ventillation and air conditioning) operations.
The expansion will add a few new HVAC apparatuses, including a new air conditioner in addition to an existing one, which produces most of the current noise.
The council took the opportunity for one more hearing in the absence of Councilman Derek Johnson, who was on vacation, saying all five members should be present before a vote is taken. Mayor Mick Ireland, who is healing from a bicycle accident on Independence Pass, was present at the beginning of the meeting, but left before it was over.