New fire station: Here or there? | AspenTimes.com
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New fire station: Here or there?

Janet Urquhart

The Aspen Fire Protection District is seeking cost estimates for the construction of a new downtown fire station at both its existing site and a potential new locale on Main Street.The cost of the facility at one site versus the other is but one factor in the pending decision to stay put or move. Other considerations were the focus of a discussion with city staffers on Wednesday.The fire department has been mulling the future site of its headquarters for more than a year, and at least one member of the district’s board of directors would like to see a decision next month.Before that happens, though, the department needs some answers, according to fire Chief Darryl Grob.”There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.Paramount is what the district would have to pay for the Zupancis property at 540 E. Main St., which the city purchased for $3 million in 2002. “Therein lies the whole issue,” said Chuck Torinus, the district board member who’s hoping August will be decision time.The district recently hired attorney Lenny Oates to assist in its negotiations with the city, Torinus said.August looms as something of a deadline for the decision because the City Council used housing dollars to purchase the Zupancis parcel, agreeing to repay the housing fund, with interest, by August 2004. However, the city doesn’t have a pressing need for that money in order to proceed with its housing plans, according to Steve Barwick, city manager.”There is no way that the city has $3 million to give the property to the fire department,” he added.The city owns the existing fire station site on Hopkins Avenue and leases it to the district for $1 a year.Other issues clouding the district’s decision reportedly include what fees would be required or waived for a new fire station; whether an emergency traffic signal could be installed at the Main Street site to accommodate exiting fire trucks; and whether the historic structures at the back of the Zupancis parcel must remain or could be relocated elsewhere. An old house and outbuildings on the property are designated historic.”Whether or not the historic structures are there clearly impacts the potential for the site,” Grob said.In the meantime, the district is seeking cost estimates for a new fire station at Zupancis that allows the historic buildings to remain there.Three firms are preparing cost estimates for a new station on the Zupancis parcel and at the district’s Hopkins Avenue headquarters.The proposal for Zupancis, located between the Pitkin County Courthouse Annex and the Concept 600 building, includes a three-story building with the potential for underground parking. The facility would include space for the department’s firefighting apparatus, office and meeting space, dorms for “sleep-over duty” for four firefighters, and six one-bedroom apartments on the third floor.The cost of a similar facility on Hopkins Avenue is also being assessed; that building would retain the Thrift Shop. The cost of providing a temporary fire station while the station is demolished and rebuilt will also be factored into the estimate for redeveloping the Hopkins site.Before the fire district does anything, it would seek voter approval to borrow money, according to Grob. That would not come before the November 2005 election, he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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