Natural gas to heat new Aspen Police Department |

Natural gas to heat new Aspen Police Department

Aspen City Council meeting packet This rendering shows the new Aspen city offices at Rio Grande Place as seen towards the building's west entrance. The project goes to Aspen City Council for further review on April 3.

Council unsatisfied with new office building

Plans for the new city offices on Rio Grande Place will undergo more scrutiny from Aspen City Council at an April 3 meeting.

A two-part public hearing that began Monday and continued Tuesday left council members wanting the project’s architects and planners to make some refinements so that the building will be more welcoming to visitors.

“I want it to invite you to come in, come on through and keep on coming,” said Councilman Art Daily.

His board colleagues agreed.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins said the current renditions of the building make it look “very institutional, somewhat massive. ... It’s really not welcoming.”

Once the landscape is touched up along with other improvements, the building would have the feel and look that council members want, project architect Charles Cunniffe told the board.

“We do think there’s a lot of things that will be added to the building that aren’t currently shown,” said Jeff Pendarvis, the city’s capital asset project manager.

The 37,458-square-foot structure, still a tentative size, would be built on top of the city-owned Rio Grande Parking Garage. It would include 15,203 square feet of offices for roughly 100 city employees, 3,856 square feet of meeting space, a 2,400-square-foot training center, and 15,947 square feet designated for a lobby, circulation, storage and mechanical needs.

The existing City Hall on Galena Street also will be gutted and remodeled as part of the government’s civic master plan.

— Rick Carroll

Councilman Bert Myrin’s crusade to heat the future Aspen Police Department with renewable energy ran out of steam Tuesday.

City Council agreed by a 3-1 tally for the project to proceed with a natural-gas system to heat the new headquarters. The decision came during a work session, spurred by Myrin’s concerns, in which city staff members and consultants presented the reasons they opted for a natural-gas system.

“The overriding decision is we wanted to be a LEED Gold (certified) building,” Jeff Pendarvis, the city’s capital asset project manager, told the council.

LEED ratings come in certified, silver, gold and platinum designations that are awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certifications are based on a structure’s environmental merits.

Myrin, however, wasn’t wowed by the LEED-certification status.

“There’s a huge thing wrong with LEED Gold because it encourages you to use fossil fuel,” he claimed.

Pendarvis and the consultants countered, as they have over the course of meetings about the matter, that the system will be a high-efficiency natural gas boiler with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years longer than that of an electric system, which also might not qualify for LEED certification.

A full electrical system also would cost anywhere from $2.8 million to $3.6 million more than natural gas, while geothermal wells could exceed project costs by $4.2 million to $4.5 million, according to the presentation.

Myrin questioned those figures and criticized Pendarvis and the consultants for not providing the data offered at the presentation to council members before the meeting. That way, Myrin reasoned, he could have vetted the data before the work session. He called the presentation a “sort of ambush.”

“I’m not confident in the numbers that were presented; I’m not confident with the process that led to where we are today,” he said. “This risk of losing LEED certification I’m OK with for a building for 50 years.”

Pendarvis said, “We tried to get the best numbers to you tonight and this was the information. … We were crunching numbers through yesterday as this came together. We feel like we have nothing to hide. We feel we made a good, responsible (decision) for the project.”

Drilling for geothermal wells also would bring challenges at the building site because of unknown soil conditions and the impacts on the neighbors at the Concept 600 building on East Main Street, Pendarvis said.

But those residents, Myrin said, were not his chief concern, saying that they “will be dead in the next 10 or 15 years.” Rather, Myrin said he was more concerned about their grandchildren because they would indirectly inherit the environmental impacts of the police station.

Fiscal impacts also came into play. The increased costs for alternative-heating systems surpassed the $1 million thresholds set by Mayor Steve Skadron and council members Adam Frisch and Ann Mullins.

The city has broken ground at 540 E. Main St. for its future police headquarters. Construction is taking place at the same time as Pitkin County redoes its building and erects a new sheriff’s department building just a block west on Main Street.

The new police station will span 18,515 square feet and be financed through certificates of participation with a principal amount of $19.5 million for the project budgeted at $22.5 million.

“The Police Department’s mission is to serve our community, and in order to be able to do that, we need a building that can function 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Police Chief Richard Pryor told the council. “We need that reliability.”

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