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Group eyes fire station site, Isis expansion

M. John Fayhee
A group has proposed purchasing the Aspen fire station to expand the Isis Theater. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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A development group wants to purchase the Aspen fire station and expand the Isis Theatre onto the Hopkins Avenue property, according to a fire district official.Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob has received three e-mails in the past five weeks from the group.Grob said he was reluctant to name the individuals or the entity that has been communicating with him, at least partially because he’s not certain of the group’s status with the Isis Theatre. He said the group, in the e-mails, essentially proposed purchasing the fire department’s main building, at 420 E. Hopkins Ave.

The property has housed the fire station since 1961. Fire district officials had considered moving to a new facility, but they are preparing to ask voters to approve a bond issue that would fund renovations at the East Hopkins site and construction of a new substation across Highway 82 from Sardy Field. “Their proposal was that they would buy the property where the fire station is, and we would relocate the station to a proposed government campus near the county courthouse,” Grob said. “There has been talk about moving the county government to a 10-acre parcel the county owns near the airport, but it has been the position of the town government that Aspen is the Pitkin County seat and, therefore, that the county government should remain in Aspen. We have considered the feasibility of having the main fire station in the middle of a government campus, and we have concluded that our current location is preferable.”The e-mails came at what Grob called “11 minutes to midnight” – the fire district is up to its clavicles in preparations for the May 2 election in which it’s seeking voter approval for the $14 million bond issue. Grob said what’s worse is he’s not clear about the legal status of those e-mails.

“The first e-mail we received was about Feb. 1,” Grob said. “It was marked ‘confidential,’ but the two subsequent e-mails were not marked as ‘confidential,’ so I’ve asked the fire district’s attorney for an opinion as to whether they are public or not. Basically, I’m on the cusp of concern. I’ve informed the group that I need to bring whatever proposals they might have to a district board meeting, so they are made in a public venue.”Grob said Tuesday that he wants the fire district’s attorney, who will be out of town until this weekend, to comment not on the substance of the e-mails but on the fact that they are the type of communiqués generally exchanged between two businesses, rather than between a business and a public entity.”I want to make sure we’re being fair to everyone,” Grob said. “We as a department work to make certain our business is conducted in the public eye, and it does not make me comfortable to be discussing fire district business in private.”Grob said the timing of the e-mails is giving him a bit of heartburn.

“All of a sudden, they’re asking us to re-examine the three years of planning we’ve been doing to prepare for the May 2 election,” Grob said. “But it’s my duty to entertain all options that might be beneficial to the fire district and to the taxpayers who live within the 87 square miles we serve.”Grob said he may be able to comment in greater detail next week, depending on what the fire district’s attorney says about the matter.Grob said he has told the group to attend the March 21 board meeting.Attempts to contact Sam Houston, representing the current owners of the Isis, were unsuccessful Tuesday. The Isis, a five-screen movie theater, has been on the market for several years.


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