Pitkin County Sheriff to city of Aspen: Leave cop parking alone
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo is voicing his objection to the city of Aspen’s conceptual plan to relocate six deputy vehicles from Galena Plaza to Main Street to make way for a park atmosphere and a skier shuttle route as it connects to a new city office building currently being constructed.
“They are favoring green space and access to City Hall over emergency vehicles,” DiSalvo said Wednesday, after relaying the same sentiment to county commissioners Tuesday, when representatives from the city’s parks department presented the plan.
“We are not putting emergency response at the top of the list, “DiSalvo added.
DiSalvo and the county have an intergovernmental agreement with the city to have at least three parking spaces on the south end of the Galena Plaza alley.
As it is today, there are six sheriff’s vehicles parked there, and that’s how DiSalvo would like to keep it because it provides the best emergency response with an option to turn left, right or go straight into a T intersection.
The city’s alternative to that is to create spaces directly in front of the courthouse on Main Street, which would require cutting into the existing curb and lawn area next to a sidewalk.
But that creates issues for deputies responding to emergencies to the east of town, because they’d have to do a U-turn in the middle of an often busy and congested Main Street, DiSalvo said.
“It would hamper operations to be on Main Street,” DiSalvo said, adding that law enforcement vehicles have been parked in the Galena Plaza alley for at least four decades.
The plaza redesign is prompted by the construction of the city’s new 37,500-square-foot office building in the area, and a desire by concerned citizens that there be a strong connection between Rio Grande Park and town.
Anticipating that his spaces would become casualties as a result of the city’s development, DiSalvo got a commitment in 2016 from then-City Manager Steve Barwick to preserve law enforcement parking.
“A few years ago, (County Manager Jon Peacock) and I saw this coming,” DiSalvo told commissioners Tuesday. “We did our best to lock down those parking spots and now they are up for grabs again.”
The city is in the process of determining what should be in Galena Plaza, which is located above the Rio Grande parking garage and next to the city’s new office building.
What hasn’t been vetted fully is whether the alley that runs through the plaza should become a two-way thoroughfare to better accommodate the Galena Street Shuttle.
Both Aspen City Council and county commissioners this week expressed concern over that idea — as well as displacing sheriff’s vehicles — for various reasons.
DiSalvo said other than one meeting with the city’s parks staff, he hasn’t been informed of the plan to move his department’s parking spaces, other than through media coverage.
City officials have indicated in recent months that the Sheriff’s Office was OK with the idea.
Mike Tunte, the city’s landscape architect and construction manager in the parks and open space department, said it was his understanding that DiSalvo wouldn’t mind moving the vehicles.
But if that’s not the case, the city will work around the Sheriff’s Office’s desires.
“I think Joe has some valid concerns and I respect his operational requirements,” Tunte said Wednesday. “I think we have some homework to do to find alternatives and I think there is a workable solution here.”
The city’s transportation department is currently looking at the functionality of the Galena Street Shuttle and how it co-exists with the plaza.
The new and improved Galena Plaza is budgeted to cost $2.6 million, which does not include the area where the law enforcement vehicles are currently located.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.