Pitkin County’s Basalt building to later house clinic

Pitkin County commissioners unanimously approved spending $3.3 million to buy a building in Basalt that will later house a health care center for low-income residents.

For the next two years or so, however, a large portion of the building, which now houses Stubbies Sports Bar and Eatery and other businesses, will serve as Pitkin County’s temporary headquarters while its main building in Aspen is renovated and added on to.

The county spent about $400,000 renovating approximately 8,000 square feet of space in the building, located at 123 Emma Road, in preparation for moving a majority of county offices there. That move was completed Labor Day weekend.

But not long after officials signed a lease for the building, it went on the market for $3.9 million, said County Manager Jon Peacock.

That prompted Pitkin County officials to consider buying the building, he said. The move saves the county $140,000 in rent during the two-year lease as well as money it would have had to spend on common-area maintenance fees, Peacock said.

“I think it’s great,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “The county’s ability to buy the building makes financial sense.”

Clapper also pointed out that the county will now become a landlord to Stubbies, a Subway sandwich shop and a Chinese restaurant, which are all located in the 15,763-square-foot building. Leases for those businesses run out between 2017 and 2021, Peacock said, and could be extended depending on if the businesses want to stay and if the county wants to open satellite offices at some point.

“It may be appropriate to keep some local businesses in place if they want,” he said.

Pitkin County offices will remain in the building until approximately summer 2018, when the new building in Aspen at 530 E. Main St., is scheduled to be finished.

After that date will come the development county officials and commissioners were particularly happy about Wednesday.

Once the county administration and other offices move back to Aspen, officials plan to lease a large portion of the building’s space for 20 years to Mountain Family Health Centers, which currently offers medical and behavioral health services to low-income residents at a much smaller facility across Highway 82 on Cody Lane in Basalt, he said.

“This is, I think, a pretty exciting opportunity to address both an existing need and the future,” Peacock said.

In exchange, Mountain Family Health will pay the county $150,000 a year in rent and come up with about $2 million to renovate 9,000 square feet into nine examination rooms, four rooms offering dental services and two rooms for behavioral health, Peacock said. The clinic currently has only about 3,000 square feet of space in the Cody Lane building, which is provided to them rent-free by Aspen Valley Hospital, he said.

However, Aspen Valley Hospital needs to locate more services to the midvalley and has notified Mountain Family Health that it will need to move out of its current building by March 2018, Peacock said.

The hospital, which has been integral in attracting Mountain Valley Health to the Roaring Fork Valley and keeping them here, will give Mountain Family Health $150,000 a year to pay the lease, according to Peacock, other county officials and Garry Schalla, Mountain Family Health’s development director.

The county will provide maintenance for common areas of the building, Peacock said.

“This is a really, really exciting project,” said Nan Sundeen, Pitkin County’s director of health and human services. “I’m about 20 times more excited (about it) than Jon (Peacock).”

That’s because the number of patients being treated by Mountain Family Health Center has gone down by about 700 in the past year to approximately 2,000 because of the lack of space, according to Sundeen, Peacock and Schalla. In addition, county officials believe there are another 2,500 low-income patients in the valley that could be seen at Mountain Family, Peacock said.

Another concern in the valley is that self-employed residents are paying 35 percent of their income in health insurance premiums, Sundeen said.

“This is the beginning of a solution to ensure people have access to health care regardless of if they can pay,” she said.

Commissioner Rachel Richards also pointed out that the addition of dental services to Mountain Family Health, which is available now only in a mobile dental office, is a big deal.

“That is huge,” she said. “This is a milestone.”

Schalla called it “another win-win for the community,” and said Mountain Family Health already has some grant money available to eventually renovate the building and has identified millions more it wants to go after for the project.

The county has not yet closed on the Basalt building, though it is under contract, Peacock said.


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