Special committee, citizens offer differing advice on new Basalt town hall | AspenTimes.com

Special committee, citizens offer differing advice on new Basalt town hall

Residents favored upgrades to Midland Avenue streetscape

Basalt citizens and a special committee appointed by the Town Council have one glaring difference in recommendations on what major projects the town government should pursue.

The Capital Needs Committee advised pursuing affordable housing, green initiatives and a new town hall, in no order of preference.

But town residents favor pursuing an upgrade to the Midland Avenue streetscape rather than a new town hall. Residents also ranked affordable housing and green initiatives among their leading preferences, according to results provided by town staff.

The Capital Needs Committee met eight times over two-and-a-half months to prioritize eight projects in the running. Town residents were given an opportunity to review the eight projects and vote for their top three in an open house Aug. 4. Votes were cast by 95 citizens.

The Town Council will sort through the differing advice at a special meeting Monday. Citizen input is crucial because voter approval will be required to pursue any projects. The results of the open house indicate the town government would face an uphill battle convincing residents to fund a new town hall, estimated to cost about $10 million to build at the current site to eliminate land costs.

If the council decides to pursue funding for up to three major projects in the November election, it would have to settle on ballot wording at its Aug. 24 meeting, so the clock is not only ticking but also quickly dwindling.

Mayor Bill Kane, who previously served as Basalt’s town manager, noted at a work session Tuesday night that the town hall represented “affordable, state-of-the-art construction in 1978.”

Eric Vozick, a member of the Capital Needs Committee, said the group felt the age and condition of the 43-year-old building meant it couldn’t be easily salvaged.

“It’s run its course and it’s time,” he said.

The Capital Needs Committee favored a proposal to combine the planning department, which is located next to town hall in the old library, with a new town hall. The members also favored further exploration of adding the police station to a new town hall. That would increase the cost.

The committee’s other priorities were spending $4 million to $5 million on affordable housing, and spending $2 million on green initiatives. Committee member Mike Kosdrosky, former executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, said the affordable housing funds might best be spent acquiring land. The town could then work with a private sector developer to build housing on that land, he said.

Green initiatives haven’t been defined in detail but one option would be pursing a solar farm with battery storage.

The Capital Needs Committee unanimously supported its recommendations.

At the open house, 59 town residents voted to support affordable housing, followed closely by 55 votes for improving the Midland Avenue streetscape.

In the third position, green initiatives nosed out a new town hall by 41 votes to 37.

The Midland Avenue streetscape includes new lighting, banners, irrigation for plantings and beautification as well as infrastructure replacement and improvement of pedestrian access and bicycle storage. Midland Avenue is the main street in Basalt’s historic downtown. Town officials believe investment in the street would encourage private investment.

Kosdrosky said members of the Capital Needs Committee considered it a worthwhile project, but he personally felt there could be hidden costs replacing the old infrastructure and the work would create a two-year disruption for businesses that have battled back from the pandemic closures.

Council members absorbed the information but didn’t offer views Tuesday. Their chance comes at Monday’s special meeting.



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