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Historical district to go before voters

Naomi Havlen

Voters will be able to decide this fall if they’d like to support the Aspen Historical Society with a property tax.Pitkin County commissioners approved the proposed Aspen Historic Park and Recreation District on Wednesday, after delaying their decision two weeks ago. The Aspen City Council had expressed some concerns about the district, but the council worked them out with the society and gave the district its blessing at a Monday meeting.The proposed district would follow the boundaries of the Aspen School District and will have a levy of 0.3 mills. That means there would be a tax of $2.38 for each $100,000 of assessed property value.The historical society anticipates collecting $487,489 in 2007 if the district is approved by voters – 64 percent of its operations in 2007.Commissioners also voted 4-0 to deny the requests of some county residents who have asked to be excluded from the district if it is passed. Commissioner Dorothea Farris was absent.”I appreciate these people who were paying attention and took the time to comment and voice their concerns, but this would be about $2.50 for $100,000 [of property value],” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “I believe this money is critical for the survival of the historical society.”The Aspen Historical Society, from its headquarters in the Wheeler-Stallard House in Aspen’s West End, manages sites around the upper valley, including the ghost towns of Independence and Ashcroft, the old lift at the bottom of Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain and the Holden-Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum.The nonprofit has been in financial straits for several years, following the failed tenures of two executive directors. Current Executive Director Georgia Hanson, hired three years ago, has aggressively pursued a grass-roots strategy of increasing local membership.This summer, the society will embark on an education campaign regarding the taxing district.”We’re putting this before voters and letting them decide – hopefully this item will result in good discussion and careful consideration by the voters,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield said. “Aspen is about now, but also about keeping an important link to our history.”Aspen resident Ramona Markalunas, who was once the president of the historical society, encouraged the organization at the meeting to look into preserving sites beyond the taxing district.”There are a lot of historic sites that need work besides Independence and Ashcroft,” she said. “The old store at Emma is disintegrating, and it would be a shame to let that gem go.”She said she collected “nickels, dimes and some nice contributions” during her time at the historical society, and that Independence made enough in donations to support itself, because of its location on Highway 82 where tourists drive by. Other sites need the same attention, she said.For now, the historical society says it will focus what might be collected with the new tax within the district, but that hopefully it will expand in the future.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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