New Aspen ambulance facility moving forward
Pitkin County commissioners gave the thumbs-up this week for Aspen Ambulance District officials to begin the design process for a new $6 million facility across from Aspen Valley Hospital.
The new building, which will be between 11,000 and 13,000 square feet, will be built next to the Pitkin County Health and Human Services Building in a spot currently occupied by a 14-space parking lot, said Gabe Muething, the ambulance district’s director.
It will replace the more than 25-year-old, 2,800-square-foot building located behind the health and human services building that is “on its last leg,” said Dave Detwiler, the project manager for the new ambulance building.
Detwiler, Muething and others spent the past few months looking at locations throughout the area, including the North 40 Fire Station and the fire station downtown. They soon discovered the location across from the hospital made the most sense, said Rich Englehart, the county’s chief operating officer.
When the previous facility was constructed, ambulances were still basically vans, Muething said. Today, the vehicles are much bigger and must be stored in a climate-controlled area because of the medicines stored within, he said.
The current facility has space for three of the district’s four ambulances, just two bunk rooms for ambulance crews and limited office and operating space, Muething said. The new building will be able to fit all four ambulances — with bay doors that open on to the road leading to Aspen Valley Hospital — and feature four-to-five crew bunk rooms, kitchen and laundry facilities and office and training spaces, according to a presentation at Tuesday’s commissioner work session.
The new facility will be funded from a 0.501 mill levy passed by Pitkin County voters in November 2014 by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. That property tax replaced a 0.22 mill levy that had been in place since 1992 and had become insufficient to fund the district. The tax now generates $39.80 per $1 million of assessed property value.
Commissioners on Tuesday were generally supportive of moving forward with the new ambulance building.
Commissioner George Newman wanted officials to keep in mind the county’s goal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at county facilities, while Commissioners Greg Poschman and Rachel Richards brought up traffic impacts on Castle Creek Road.
Richards also raised the issue of parking in the area, which officials said is inadequate at both the hospital and the health and human services building and likely to remain so with the loss of 14 spaces. One idea is to build a parking structure in place of the parking lot at the health and human services building, Detwiler, Englehart and Muething said. Richards said she’d like them to look closely at that idea.
Commissioner Patti Clapper asked the officials to make sure they weren’t building more than they need.
“I’m concerned about size,” she said. “Do we need another training facility?”
The next step is to issue a request for proposals from architects for a building design, Englehart said. That is estimated to take six to eight weeks, he said. The design and permitting stage should take between eight and nine months and construction could start as early as spring, Englehart said.
The public and officials from health and human services and AVH will be involved every step of the way, similar to the process recently used to refine the design for the county’s new building on Main Street in Aspen, Englehart and Muething said. That process takes longer in the beginning but allows the back end to be streamlined because issues have already been dealt with, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.
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