Four city jobs to go unfilled as officials look toward 2003 | AspenTimes.com

Four city jobs to go unfilled as officials look toward 2003

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Four city jobs will not be filled in an attempt to make some reductions in Aspen’s 2003 budget, but no current workers will be laid off, a city official said Thursday.

City Manager Steve Barwick said all of the positions ? a police officer, a wildlife officer, the secretary with the engineering department and an information systems employee ? were vacated earlier this year and simply will not be filled in 2003.

“All four cut out of the organization this year are vacant positions,” Barwick said, a point he said may not have been made clear at Tuesday afternoon’s budget meeting, leading to a misconception of some staff cuts. Not filling the four positions could save the city $150,000 next year, he told the Aspen City Council on Tuesday.

Assistant Police Chief Glenn Schaffer said the department’s vacant position was left open after some personnel shuffling. When former Police Chief Joe Cortez left his office last October for a job in California, a chain reaction was set in place that promoted several officers, leaving patrol positions unfilled.

The department has hired three new officers in recent weeks and is in the process of hiring one more, but is still short one officer.

“It’s not going to affect the level of service we provide to this town,” Schaffer said. “What it affects more is internally. We’re down a person less than we were before, and that will affect our ability to send officers to training or allow vacation time.

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“Our primary goal is to staff enough officers from the public safety point of view.”

In the city’s Environmental Health Department, director Lee Cassin said one of the wildlife officers left early this year, and an intern was hired this summer to temporarily take his place. There is now one wildlife officer working for the city. The officer enforces wildlife ordinances in town such as keeping a close watch on trash cans to ensure they are locked up tight against bears and other wildlife.

Since the department has now undergone two years of strict, full-time enforcement paired with educating the public about the ordinances, Cassin said it is not too much of a stress on the department to leave that position vacant.

“If there’s ever a time to look at whether or not to cut back on enforcement, it’s now when revenues are down,” she said. “After two years so full of enforcement and education, at some point you hope that means you can step back and do less enforcement.”

Cassin said other city workers in the parking department have been helping out with enforcement since the wildlife officer left.

At Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, the City Council elected to budget for 2003 by anticipating a 5 percent decline in sales taxes. According to preliminary calculations, with a continuing decline in sales taxes, the city’s general fund revenue could drop from $13.5 million with flat revenue to $13.2 million with the 5 percent decline.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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