Future uncertain for housing staffers | AspenTimes.com

Future uncertain for housing staffers

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The reorganization of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority means an uncertain future for a handful of project planners in the agency.

They are assigned to handle development for an agency that will no longer be in the development business.

“We’re aware of that, certainly,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “If we’re not going to do development, what happens to the people who were hired to do development?

“With qualified people, I’d certainly hope we could find jobs for them somewhere in either the city or the county structure,” she said.

Some housing office staffers, apparently sensing the potential for staff cuts, have asked if they should be pursuing job opportunities elsewhere, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager. “My advice to them was, no, not at this point,” he said.

“I have to draw up work plans, find out what work I have for them in housing and other projects,” said Sadler, who also oversees construction projects of all sorts for the city as its assets manager. “We’ve got a lot of projects in the 10-year assets plan.”

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The Housing Authority staff was beefed up considerably two years ago, when Aspen and Pitkin County elected officials agreed the housing office should move ahead simultaneously on the planning of several potential affordable-housing projects.

Jay Leavitt was hired as director of development and construction; Troy Rayburn and Michelle Bonfils were hired as project managers assigned to various developments, and Victoria Giannola joined the housing office as assistant director and the planner for the Woody Creek Trailer Park. Also on the staff before he quit last year was project planner Lee Novak. His position has not been filled.

Since then, the Seventh and Main housing complex has been constructed; the expansion of Truscott Place is under way; subdivision plans for the trailer park are moving forward, the county’s Stillwater project is ready to go, and plans for various other developments have progressed to various stages.

But now, the city has decided to turn more of the development duties for its major projects over to the private sector. In addition, the city and county agreed this week to restructure the Housing Authority so that development is no longer among its day-to-day duties.

Even with greater private-sector participation in public projects, though, the city will still need project managers to oversee construction, Sadler noted.

Leavitt said this week that he doesn’t know what the future holds for the Housing Authority’s planning staff, but that he is not worrying.

“To be worried or not worried – it’s really premature,” he said. “There are so many `ifs’; to speculate on the `ifs’ is good to do over a beer, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

Bonfils, too, said she will wait and see how the reorganization shakes out.

“The city manager has said, in so many words, they’ll find us something,” she said.

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