Council to hear Aspen Valley Hospital expansion proposal |

Council to hear Aspen Valley Hospital expansion proposal

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council will hold the first reading of an expansion proposal for Aspen Valley Hospital that would nearly triple its current size at 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall. The meeting will be the first of at least two public hearings for the project, which has courted skepticism among some nearby community members who ask whether the facility needs such an extravagant makeover.

Hospital governing board officials are pushing the initiative, which will go into its second and largest phase if approved, as one that will improve and expand the hospital’s existing services.

Hospital CEO Dave Ressler said last week that health care in the community needs to become more geared toward its quickly aging population.

“It’s right-sizing the facility for the community we serve,” Ressler said.

He stressed that the expansion is not intended to “duplicate” services offered in valley hospitals, citing the medical areas AVH specializes in, such as ear, nose and throat surgeries and chemotherapy.

“You don’t want to go to a hospital that does 10 cardiothoracic surgeries a year; you want to go to one that does a bunch of cardiothoracic surgeries a year,” Ressler said.

But city Planning and Zoning Commission meetings leading up to Monday’s hearing have brought out some public suggestions that the hospital to scale back the proposed expansion to a mere renovation of the old facility, which was moved to the west end of the city near the Meadowood neighborhood in the mid-1970s.

The City Council reading rides the heels of an approval by the Glenwood Springs City Council to implement the sixth phase of an expansion to Valley View Hospital, but Ressler maintained that the new Aspen building will not be a valley health-care redundancy.

“It’s a cost-efficient way of providing care that will not duplicate service,” he said.

If the project is approved, the new structures will include nine new offices for doctors on top of the existing building and new employee housing on the north end of the 19-acre plot the hospital owns off Castle Creek Road. It will also build a new service and access road that will hem the property.

Ressler said the hospital will sustain the initiative’s approximately $120 million price tag with four buckets of cash: savings from hospital revenues; tax-exempt revenue bonds; a property tax hike, would require voter approval; and donations from the hospital foundation.

The property tax increase will likely go to a ballot in November 2010, May 2011 or November 2011.

The portion of the burden those different sources will bear has yet to be determined, Ressler said, because of the preliminary nature of the proposal – the $120 million he cited is just a projection right now.

Ressler said the hospital has already acquired a contractor to place a final bid on the second phase. Haselden Construction, an LLC that specializes in hospital buildings, will determine the final price and will likely build the new structures.

The first phase of the effort, a new maternity ward, is already completed.

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