New Aspen Ambulance building also a wellness tool

The new Aspen Ambulance District building has upgrades including four bedrooms instead of just one room with bunk beds, allowing members to sleep better, officials said.
Mountain Home Photo/Courtesy Image

For Gabe Muething, the new $8 million Aspen Ambulance District building is more than just a nicer place to work.

“(It means) we will get more life span out of our paramedics,” the director of the ambulance district said recently. “Taking care of our people is especially important … (so) to increase longevity is amazing.”

The building — located across from Aspen Valley Hospital off of Castle Creek Road — is set for a grand opening Monday, when paramedics and district officials will welcome the public for tours, refreshments and snacks beginning at 5 p.m.

“It is fantastic,” Muething said of the building, which has its roots in an ambulance district property tax passed by voters in 2014. “I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m really looking forward to occupying it.”

The approximately 12,000-square-foot building — which features four bedrooms for crews, a fitness center and other modern amenities — replaces a 25-year-old, 2,800-square-foot facility nearby that is falling apart.

That building’s air conditioning — which is essential for storing medicines in modern ambulances — “goes out every other day,” while the facility is simply too small, Muething said. The working conditions make paramedics burn out faster, he said.

“It’s a tough job as it is,” he said. “We don’t want to make it any tougher.”

By contrast, the new facility, which occupies a former 14-space parking lot for Pitkin County’s Health and Human Services Building next door, is a palace.

The four individual bedrooms will allow ambulance crews to sleep much better, Muething said.

“When I first started there was one huge room with bunk beds,” he said. “You could never really sleep when the guy next to you is sawing logs.”

In addition, modern technology will allow each individual crew member to determine how he or she wants to be awakened by an emergency call, Muething said. Some, for example, might need a loud, jarring alarm, while others might prefer a softer notification, he said.

That, too, goes back to the health and wellness of crew members, he said.

The new building also will feature a much larger, temperature-controlled ambulance bay capable of housing large, modern ambulances.

The budget for the new ambulance building started at about $6 million, then grew to $7.4 million by January 2018, when utility placement costs increased the price tag. The final budget came in at $8.6 million, though the building appears likely to come in under budget, said Rich Englehart, Pitkin County’s chief operating officer.

Construction cost about $7 million, while design, fees and other costs came in at $800,000 and furniture and fixtures were about $60,000, he said. Final costs for the building are not yet available, he said.

The money to build the facility came from an ambulance district property tax mill levy passed by voters in 2014 by a 62% to 38% margin.

Englehart and Muething said they were proud to have worked closely with neighbors to refine the building’s design to reflect their concerns. All sound from the building, for example, is directed away from the neighborhood, while the noise from the mechanicals has been lessened by the installation of 85 solar panels on the building’s roof, Muething said.

“I think we’ve done a really good job working with the neighbors,” he said.

Cliff Weiss, president of the next-door Twin Ridge Homeowners Association, agreed.

“My homeowners are happy because they did what they promised,” Weiss said. “Builders often present one thing and build something else.”

Weiss said Twin Ridge residents were mainly concerned with noise from HVAC, which was relocated to a part of the building farthest from neighbors. They also are happy with an arrangement that calls for ambulance drivers not to turn on their sirens until they reach Castle Creek Road, he said.

Weiss — a member of Pitkin County’s Planning and Zoning Commission — said he was happy with the look of the new ambulance building.

“It is a beautiful building,” he said. “They did a great job.”