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New top cop is ready to move in

John Colson

Aspen’s new police chief is about to move into his new, $850-per-month home, and he’s a happy guy.

And the guy who is moving out of the home to make way for the chief said he’s satisfied, too.

“It’s a great location,” said Joe Cortez, who started July 10 as Aspen’s new top cop, at a salary of $72,000 per year.

He will be moving in Sunday to a small frame house on Puppy Smith Street, across from the U.S. post office.

Cortez said he and his family are looking forward to living in the heart of town, right near everything, from the post office and one of Aspen’s two grocery stores to a bike shop, the Rio Grande Trail hiking path, and a host of other locally oriented services.

“What more could I ask for?” he said.

The house’s latest occupant, city worker Chuck Fillion, is moving to new digs at the Water Place housing complex near Aspen Valley Hospital.

Fillion, who has been in town for 24 years, said he was worried for a while that he might not have a place to live after City Manager Steve Barwick informed him he had to move out to make room for Cortez.

But, he said Thursday, “Barwick promised me he’d get me a place to live, and he did.”

As for the move, he said, “It feels good because I’ve got a place to go. The housing thing, I’ve been dealing with that for 24 years. We all have to.”

He also said he has met the new chief. “He’s a great guy. He came over and apologized and everything.”

Cortez said Thursday that he did go over to talk with Fillion about his regret that he was being relocated, and about a mini-controversy that started when local radio personality Andrew Cole referred to the house as looking like a “crack den.”

That incident still enrages Fillion, who said he has been approached by children in the city’s recreation programs, where he used to work, and asked, “Chuck, do you use crack?”

He said he has never received an apology from Cole, and is not expecting one.

“I don’t need him,” Fillion said heatedly. “He’s a detriment to the community. There are so many more important things he could be ripping on in this town than this. He’s got his own agenda, whatever it is. He thinks he’s Howard Stern.”

Cortez said that when he apologized, his goal was to emphasize that “the last thing I wanted to do was cause this guy any discomfort.”

Cortez said he will be returning to Brush, Colo., this weekend to pack up his household belongings and truck them to Aspen. He and his 18-year old son, Nick, will be moving in together at the start. His wife, he said, still has nursing work to complete on the Front Range and probably will not be moving to Aspen until August.

Meanwhile Nick Cortez, who will be a senior at Aspen High School in the fall, will be looking for a job to earn a little money, his dad said.

Cortez said he has no idea how long he will be living in the Puppy Smith house, primarily because it is uncertain how long the house will be there.

Barwick has said the city is considering building an affordable housing project on the land now occupied by the house, although he said this week, “there’s no real plan. We’re just looking at it.”


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