Pitkin County ponders its place in special events
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Special events constitute a broad range of activities within the borders of Pitkin County.
Some, such as a photo shoot for Jacuzzi at a private residence, occur virtually unnoticed. Others, such as the Winter X Games at Buttermilk, draw thousands of spectators and an international television audience.
County government’s role in the action up to this point has been mainly one of regulation and safety. The planning staff reviews an application to make sure everything from traffic control to environmental protections the provision of restrooms is addressed, depending on the nature of the event. Sheriff’s Office deputies may be out in full force at one event and have no involvement in another.
But as event-driven tourism continues to help revive the local economy in the wake of a recession that slowed the construction and real estate industries, the county increasingly finds it is the place to race, among other pursuits. And the events are getting bigger and more complex.
At an afternoon session Thursday, county commissioners will take up the government’s involvement in making events happen.
“We really need to figure out what our role is in special events,” County Manager Jon Peacock said. “Do we want to shift our orientation to special events, and to what degree?”
The county could continue to simply regulate and coordinate the events, or it could further facilitate them by expediting its permit process or offering financial incentives (already, it is willing to refund fees for events organized by nonprofits). Finally, Peacock noted, the county could promote special events actively, an initiative that would require staff, expertise and a budget.
The latter approach would be a vast departure from current practice, but at the very least, commissioners must decide whether they want to support special events to a greater degree than they do at present. The city of Aspen has asked the county to waive the fees it would typically charge for its work on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a bike race that will make its return in August.
Last year, the county’s bill for the event included $9,889 for Sheriff’s Office staffing during the event and $3,354 in Community Development fees.
If the county agrees to waive the fees this year, it might want to develop criteria to handle similar requests from other event organizers, Peacock said. A consistent policy is the goal.
“I don’t think we have that right now,” he said. “We respond to each request as it comes.”
The commissioners will meet from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room, located off the library plaza in the former youth center building.
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