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Skico to pay half of road costs

Allyn Harvey

Another chapter in the long-running story over construction of the Sundeck Restaurant atop Ajax was completed yesterday when the Aspen Skiing Company agreed to pay half the cost of a makeover for Castle Creek Road.

The company agreed to pay $66,000 towards a chip-and-seal resurfacing project next summer, covering 50 percent of the estimated $132,000 cost.

Officials from the county road department were hoping their bosses on the board of county commissioners would assess the full cost of the project to the Skico.

But the commissioners never really gave the road department’s plan serious consideration. Instead, they debated various interpretations of the construction management plan that governed construction of the 23,000-square-foot restaurant and club, and different percentages of the $132,000 rehabilitation that could be reasonably assessed to the company.

County road department officials maintained that the Skico knew all along that it was going to be charged for damage caused by hundreds of heavy trucks. Brian Pettet, the public works manager in charge of the county’s road program, said negotiations with the company in 1998 and 1999 included discussions of Castle Creek Road and the need to rehabilitate it once the project was finished.

Company officials say that, as far as they knew, their obligations ended with the repairs they made last summer to Little Annie Road, the dirt track that trucks used to get up the backside of Aspen Mountain to the Sundeck.

“We were surprised to learn in May of this year that in addition to the $400,000 we’ve spent fulfilling the terms of the construction management plan and the work we’ve completed in rehabilitating Little Annie Road, we’re also obliged to pay for 100 percent of the chip-and-seal treatment to Castle Creek Road,” said Skico vice president Bill Kane.

Both sides lost their point with the county.

The commissioners noted that Castle Creek Road was one of three roads covered by a security bond set aside by the company as a guarantee against construction damage. And they rejected the Skico’s argument that the company should be let off the hook because, unlike Little Annie Road, there is no visible damage to Castle Creek Road.

“Obviously it was easy to see what was going on with Little Annie Road, because it’s not paved,” said Commissioner Leslie Lamont.

County engineer Bud Eyler pointed out that fully loaded trucks carrying sand or concrete cause extensive wear and tear to roads that can show up long after a project is finished. The chip-and-seal resurfacing that he and Pettet wanted to bill the Skico for can extend the life of a road by two or three years.

But Lamont and the other commissioners also agreed there was no language specifically requiring the company to pay for unseen damage to Castle Creek Road.

“What we’re faced with here is another reinterpretation of the construction management plan,” Lamont said. “As I recall, the last reinterpretation of the plan, in relation to Little Annie Road, was to the benefit of the Aspen Skiing Company.”

The company skirted a requirement in the original construction plan to restore Little Annie Road to its “original condition.” If they had been required to meet that condition, it would have meant removing all of the gravel used to make the road passable for trucks, and restoring the ruts and vegetation that ran down the center of the road.

The Castle Creek Road dispute was finally settled with percentages. “I don’t think it’s fair to assess 100 percent,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “Deep down inside I don’t think it’s fair to assess anything.”

Kane pointed out that during the construction of the Sundeck, there was 43,000 square feet of residential construction under way along Castle Creek Road above the intersection with Little Annie Road.

By Kane’s reckoning, the Skico was only responsible for 22.5 percent of the construction traffic on the road last summer, but he said the company was willing to pay $30,000 of the $132,000 job.

But Pettet pointed out that if the Sundeck were built today, under the recent changes to the county land-use code, the company would be assessed $320,760 in road fees. Commissioner Mick Ireland suggested the company pay $71,562, or 22.5 percent of what they would be charged today.

After a brief discussion clarifying that amount, followed by a relatively long pause by all, Kane said, “How about we pay half the cost of the repairs?”

The commissioners voted 5-0 to take the $66,000 offer by Kane.


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