Pitkin County to close Basalt office

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Pitkin County will close its primary Health and Human Services office in Basalt by Oct. 1 in order to cut costs and locate closer to its clientele base, which is now in the Aspen area instead of the midvalley.

“We’re doing everything we can to cut our costs without cutting services,” said Nan Sundeen, director of the agency.

The Basalt office opened in a commercial building on Elk Run Drive a decade ago, when most of its referrals for child protection and public assistance were coming from the midvalley, according to Sundeen. Now, more referrals are coming from the Aspen area, and a greater percentage of the caseload is being handled through the Schultz Health and Human Services building in Aspen.

And, while Pitkin County was picking up 20 percent of the cost of renting space in Basalt, with the state covering the rest, it appears the county will shoulder an increasing percentage of that cost, given the state’s financial crunch, Sundeen said.

The county will save at least $25,000 by consolidating at the Aspen location, though some shuffling of offices and a minor remodeling, at a cost of $4,100, are expected. Two caseworkers will be able to maintain a midvalley presence at the Eagle County building in El Jebel.

The state has traditionally paid about 80 percent of the cost of health and human services in Pitkin County, but the county has braced for a reduction in that allocation and the need to cover more of the costs out of its general fund, according to Sundeen.

The services are over budget by about $300,000 for the state’s 2009-2010 fiscal year, which ended June 30. The county expects the state to cover $100,000 to $150,000 of that overrun and has anticipated the need to cover the rest.

Moving out of Basalt is a way to make an immediate adjustment, Sundeen said in a memo to county commissioner detailing the plan. The Basalt closure will proceed unless commissioners decide otherwise.


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