Fire station move isn’t a burning question, city says | AspenTimes.com

Fire station move isn’t a burning question, city says

Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Fire Protection District has a decision looming about whether to move the fire station to a piece of property on Main Street. But on Wednesday city officials recommended that decision makers take their time.The city has asked the fire district to consider moving to the recently purchased Zupancis property at 540 E. Main St., as part of the city’s Civic Center Master Plan. The plan covers the future of many major facilities in downtown Aspen.But at a fire district meeting Tuesday, many fire officials expressed concern that they would be rushed to make a decision about the future of the fire station. Although the master plan advisory group has set a tentative schedule to adopt the plan by the end of this year, officials say that schedule is certainly not firm.Mayor Helen Klanderud on Wednesday said that the Civic Center Master Plan process involves a lot of heady decisions for organizations that are interested in moving locations. She said the decisions should not be rushed, and the fire district has no need to feel threatened with deadlines.”I don’t know how long a [decision-making process] that would be for them, but I think it’s an important decision, and as with every other property, everyone needs time to make the best informed and acceptable decision for themselves,” Klanderud said.Chris Bendon, the city planner who heads up the master plan advisory group, echoed Klanderud’s comments. He said the group was formed in 1999 so the community could make these sorts of decisions together, and very deliberately.”We want them to take this very seriously and have them come to a quality decision that they feel is best for their organization,” Bendon said. “If they can do that in a week, great. If they can do that in a year, fine, or in two years, fine. We’ll deal with whatever time frame they feel comfortable with.”As part of the master plan, the Aspen Art Museum is interested in finding a larger space located inside the commercial core. If the fire station was to move out of its current location, art museum officials have expressed interest in the lot on Hopkins Avenue.Dean Sobel, director of the art museum, said a move toward the center of town has been discussed at the museum for several years, but is still seen as speculative.”Ultimately what it boils down to is if we feel we can raise the funds to build additional gallery space, does it make the most sense to think about the location of that gallery space at the same time?” Sobel said. “The fire station is just one possibility, and that’s all there is to say about that until they decide if they’re moving or staying.”Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob, the fire district board of directors and the volunteer fire department are in the process of determining how to make a decision, beginning with considering people who could serve as neutral facilitators during discussions.Although the process will be a difficult one, Grob said he’s trying to keep the focus on the future of the fire department.”We’re really not interested in moving to a location that compromises or degrades our ability to provide emergency service,” Grob said. “We might be interested in one that enhances our abilities, but my focus in that process is to keep our options open.”He said he sees the master plan as the city’s efforts to create a win-win situation for the community. He said the Zupancis property is probably one of the most viable sites for the fire department in town, and certainly one of the few remaining.”As time goes by, that list [of possible relocation sites] gets shorter,” he said. “This catches us a little by surprise, but we’re not in a position to answer that question yet.”The Hopkins Avenue parcel where the station currently stands was purchased by the city from Pitkin County in 1961 for $26.42, Grob said. It was leased by the Fire Protection District in 1961 for $1 a year, a contract that was renewed in 2000 and expires in 2020.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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