Firefighters win battle at the polls |

Firefighters win battle at the polls

Voters in the Aspen Fire Protection District overwhelmingly passed a $14 million bond Tuesday to allow the district to build a new headquarters in Aspen and a smaller station near the Aspen Business Center.

Question A passed 661 to 128. Fire Chief Darryl Grob, who said he has “a talent for worry,” was ecstatic upon learning the news at Jimmy’s restaurant.

The election “was about vision,” he said. “It’s not about meeting our needs today, although it will improve our mission delivery in the very short term. But it is really about the work that the department and the community have invested in the future of our department.”

Grob and other district officials contend the ABC station will be able to offer much quicker response times to the Maroon Creek and Castle Creek valleys, Burlingame and other developments west of town.

“We will be able to accomplish work with this bond issue that will save lives down the road,” Grob said. “It’s almost guaranteed. And that’s what it’s all about.”

The current station contains cramped and poorly insulated bays for trucks and equipment, the district told the Aspen City Council in January. Training, office and storage facilities are also inadequate. The new fire station on Hopkins Avenue will be a three-story structure of up to 20,000 square feet.

A steady stream of residents from the 87-square-mile district voted at the polling station inside the Hopkins Avenue fire station, election official Jan Legersky said. The passage of the bond, essentially a new property tax, means someone with a $1 million home will pay $65.54 more annually.

Two of those voting were City Council members Rachel Richards and J.E. DeVilbiss.

“It’s a chance to keep a really important institution in downtown Aspen,” Richards said of her yes vote. “It will be changing with the times but staying in the same location. The fire district guys went through this long process to get here. I know they were thorough, I know they checked every dime [and] I’m just backing them up.”

DeVilbiss said he also voted for the bond.

“The traffic is such that we need a place where we can respond to the [ABC], Marolt, to anything past the Castle Creek bridge,” he said. “To me, it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

He noted that because the bond is basically a tax increase, “you never can tell” what voters might do.

But a small exit poll outside the polling station could not find anyone opposed. The district encompasses the area from Difficult Campground east of Aspen to the upper end of Snowmass Canyon, the Maroon and Castle Creek valleys and most of the Woody Creek Valley. Roughly 6,300 people in the district are registered to vote.

Molly Ireland said she favored the new fire station and satellite station, although she had one reservation.

“I’m sure they need it with the population increasing and so on,” she said. “But it’s the ugliest design I’ve ever seen and I hope they change it. But I would vote for it, ugly or not. I know it’s important.”

John Phillips cited Aspen firefighters’ stellar reputation ” “The fire department does such a great job and that’s what they were asking for” ” as his reason for voting yes.

The fire district had little trouble swaying Julie Puchkoff of Snowmass Village. She’s a retired firefighter.

“As the town grows, things need to move accordingly,” she said.

In the race for three open seats on the district’s board of directors, Tom Clapper led with 523 votes, followed by D. Stone “Stoney” Davis with 520 and Pamela Cunningham with 466. Dwayne Romero received 366 votes. In addition to the three seats, Grob noted that a fourth seat is also vacant, and the board will fill it.

Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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