Pitkin County budgets $4M for 2019 capital projects

Pitkin County plans to spend about $4 million next year renovating two buildings and purchasing another, officials said Tuesday.

At the top of the list is remodeling the historic Pitkin County Courthouse, which is now estimated to cost $2.7 million, said Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities manager. The last estimate for the extensive renovations was about $1.9 million, though the cost increased after the contractor on the project recently submitted a new estimate, she said.

Not included in that estimate is another $1 million to replace all the windows in the building — originally built in 1890 ­— to make it more energy-efficient, as well as another $250,000 for a new roof, Smith said. The windows might be able to be partially paid for with grant money, while the roof could last another year or two, she said.

The courthouse, which until recently housed many county offices, the Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department, will undergo numerous changes. Those offices moved to the new Pitkin County Building next door and the Aspen Police Department next door to that.

Changes to the courthouse will include building a third courtroom in the basement, adding an exterior stairway from the top floor for emergency exits and making the front door on Main Street the only public entrance, which will include a security station. In addition, the Court Clerk’s Office will move from the third floor to the second floor, the District Attorney’s Office will move from the basement to the first floor and the probation department will receive significantly larger quarters on the first floor.

County officials plan to submit an application for the courthouse to the city in early November to begin the public process, Smith said. The application will be submitted under a state law governing development of public buildings, she said, meaning changes suggested by the city are not binding to the county and can be overruled by a four-fifths majority vote by Pitkin County commissioners.

Next on the list is $250,000 to renovate the basement of the Pitkin County Jail into an area that can be used to search vehicles seized by police and sheriff’s deputies, Smith said.

The county also will spend about $140,000 to renovate a portion of the Health and Human Services Building near Aspen Valley Hospital to accommodate employees of the newly created Public Health Department, she said.

Finally, the county plans to buy a building in Basalt for $799,000 to house the county’s telecommunications staff, said Phyllis Mattice, assistant county manager.

The approximately 3,000-square-foot building at 351 Southside Drive includes a garage, which is essential for those employees, and will allow them a more centralized location to do their work, she said.

That staff services all of the county’s TV, broadband, FM radio and public safety radio infrastructure — which often is located atop mountains — and runs from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and from Redstone to Thomasville, Mattice said.

“So the location in the midvalley is much more efficient for them,” she said.

The building also includes a two-bedroom apartment, which will be available for rent for a Pitkin County employee, Mattice said.

Commissioners approved the purchase Oct. 24, and the transaction is set to close Jan. 7, she said.

Pitkin County commissioners were briefed on all the expected expenditures last week as part of their budget process.