County bursting at the seams | AspenTimes.com

County bursting at the seams

Joel Stonington

With 3,000 feet of space up for grabs to a county organization, everyone shows up for a piece of the pie.

That was the case Tuesday, when county commissioners discussed what to do with 3,242 square feet in the wing of the Human Services Building that used to house Little Feet Daycare.

Pitkin County decided to give the space to Health and Human Services instead of child care, though the conversation was heated and the decision was difficult.

“We’re discussing 3,000 square feet; it’s corrosive to live in a community like that,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley. “It’s distressing to have to choose between two important parts of our community ” the health of our community and the future of our community.”

Health and Human Services now has six months to talk with an architect to design the space to accommodate needs of Valley Information and Assistance, an organization the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation started that does case management, directing people to services they need. AVMF will likely be accommodated in the space as well.

“We could use all that space, right now,” said Nan Sundeen, director of human services for the county, who suggested the need to work with an architect to figure out the space.

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Representatives of various groups packed the hot room. Another arm of Pitkin County asked that the space become offices for Natural Resources/Environmental Health and Community Development while Kids First had its say in asking for the space to be a new day-care center. Aspen Valley Hospital (the current renter of the space) wanted sufficient notice.

All the commissioners recognized a need for more child care in the valley. Further, there was a desire to figure out a master plan so that there is no longer a crunch on space for necessary services.

Audience members and commissioners expressed concerns that space wasn’t appropriate for child care because of additional travel time out to the hospital area, if taking a bus from downvalley. Further, there were worries that social services were not necessarily best situated next to a day-care center.

Commissioners did agree upon the need for more child care in the valley and promised to look closely at the possibility of locating some of that at Burlingame.

“We’ll continue to work with Kids First,” said Commissioner Mick Ireland. “I don’t think that’s the best location.”

The county also promised to talk with the city of Aspen on a cooperative facility master plan for downtown, where most Pitkin County services would like to be located.

“When is Pitkin County’s facility plan going to be ready for a full discussion?” Commissioner Jack Hatfield asked. “We need to spend some time talking more than just on the surface. That’s what I’m lobbying for … the big picture.”

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com