Fire station group in no hurry to make site decision
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The process of determining the future location of the Aspen Fire Protection District’s primary fire station is expected to continue for the next few months.
A steering committee representing the volunteer fire department has met almost a dozen times to discuss the possibility of moving the station to a Main Street location. Tom Baker, the town manager of Basalt, is facilitating the meetings for the fire department and is the committee’s spokesman.
Almost a year ago, the city said fire officials would have first dibs on developing a newly purchased city property at 540 E. Main St., next to the Pitkin County Annex Building. The current fire station in Aspen on Hopkins Avenue is also on city property – the district has leased the property from the city since 1961.
The offer was made as part of the city’s Civic Center Master Plan, which looks at the location of major facilities in downtown Aspen, including the fire district and the Aspen Art Museum.
The steering committee is composed of 16 people from groups that represent the fire district: volunteer firefighters, full-time staff members and members of the district’s board of directors. Eventually the group will make a recommendation to the board of directors about which site they feel is most appropriate for the district’s future.
The board will likely appear before the Aspen City Council to report the findings, and the city and the fire district will then work together on a development plan.
Baker was hired to coordinate the decision-making process when the steering committee meets, which is generally twice a month. Everything from the department’s traditions and culture to the logistics of staying or moving is being discussed, he said.
The first meetings of the committee were spent looking at the department culture – or what makes the district as unique as it is, Baker said. He referred to the culture as the “glue” that has held the department together over the years.
“We had a session with retired members of the department, and they were a classic representation of volunteerism in the community,” Baker said. “The retired members challenged the members in the steering committee to create their own traditions, stories and leadership, and not to worry about the retired members. They said they had their day, and they did what they thought was in the best interest of the fire department and the community.
“I thought that was very remarkable empowerment that the retired members [gave to today’s department members.]”
In the coming months the committee will discuss the technical needs of the future fire department. When the offer of moving the fire department to Main Street was first presented, some volunteer firefighters expressed concern over leaving their highly visible locality in the commercial core – Baker said it’s a topic the group is discussing at length.
Although most members of the committee have opinions about which location would be best for the station, Baker said everyone agreed to put aside their personal biases. The city is giving the department time to make an informed decision.
“Everyone has gone out of their way to give this group the time it needs to make a thorough process and make a thoughtful decision,” he said. “The city has gone out of their way to make sure the fire department doesn’t feel pressured, because they know it’s a big decision.”
Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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