Fire department has third choice for new facilities
The local fire department has a more complicated choice about the future of its facilities than it originally thought.What was once a choice between keeping the Hopkins Avenue fire barn or moving to a city-owned piece of land on Main Street has now collided with one more option: building a new facility near the Aspen Airport Business Center. According to Fire Chief Darryl Grob, the proposal to build a facility near the North 40 neighborhood began in part because the Airport ARF building will be torn down this spring.The ARF houses one of the department’s trucks. Beyond the problem of where to put that piece of equipment, Grob said there is a growing realization among local emergency responders that Aspen is growing increasingly to the north, past Castle Creek Bridge.”At certain times of the day, the S curves make it difficult to get to areas like Burlingame, the schools, the hospital and the North 40,” Grob said. “In addition, there is burgeoning development beyond Castle Creek.”The Aspen Fire Protection District has been in talks with John McBride, the owner of a parcel in that area of Aspen near Colorado Mountain College. But increased options like that one mean the choice has gotten more complex.The decision has been in the works for more than two years, since the late summer of 2002, when city officials asked the district if it would like to relocate headquarters to 540 E. Main St. Known as the Zupancis property, the land is next to the Pitkin County Annex Building and was purchased by the city of Aspen for $3 million. The city’s offer is part of the Civic Center Master Plan, developed several years ago to look at the future of major facilities in downtown Aspen. At 26,500 square feet, the Zupancis property is more than twice the size of the plot the fire department currently occupies.In the past year and a half, the fire protection district formed a steering committee to analyze the decision. The proposal for the new space includes a three-story building with the potential for underground parking.The city maintains that it would be unable to give the $3 million property to the fire department, and so fire officials have hired attorney Lenny Oates to help negotiate with the city.On the other hand, the steering committee also looked at the cost of building a similar facility in the Hopkins Avenue location. That property is owned by the city and leased to the district for $1 a year.Now, Grob said, the department must look into this third option with a potential space at the Aspen Airport Business Center, or even combining that new location with a Main Street relocation or an overhaul of their current space.”This is a question that has become exponentially more difficult to answer,” he said on Tuesday evening after a district meeting. “We’re a small staff, and looking into this will be a very big job.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.