Truscott cost is $36 million |

Truscott cost is $36 million

Janet Urquhart

With a $36.05 million price tag for the Truscott Place housing/golf project and an $18.4 million shortfall in money to build it, the Aspen City Council debated everything from eliminating bathrooms to raising rents Monday to make the budget balance.

The bathrooms will stay.

Looking at the first formal budget for Truscott, the council managed to whittle about $1 million off the project’s bottom line. That’s on top of about $1.6 million staffers lopped off the project to get it down to $36.05 million, according to Ed Sadler, assets manager for the city.

Gone are some amenities in the new municipal golf course clubhouse that is part of the project, like a fireplace, decorative trusses, fancy front doors and wood shingles, though Sadler said he’d put the fireplace back in if he saves enough of the contingency budget.

The council refused to eliminate carports and a second bathroom in the two-bedroom apartments.

“A lot of two-bedrooms can have four people living in them,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. “Bathrooms aren’t amenities, they’re necessities,” agreed Councilman Tony Hershey.

The shortfall is broken down into about $17.1 million assigned to the housing budget, $846,866 in the golf course’s share of the project and $415,109 assigned to the parks department.

The city had already agreed to a nearly $8 million subsidy from the housing fund for the 99 additional housing units planned at Truscott. The affordable housing complex is adjacent to the Aspen Municipal Golf Course west of town.

Rent revenues, grant money, a parks department contribution to housing and the cuts made by the council yesterday pared the housing shortfall to about $8.4 million.

Most of that money could be made up with a rent increase at the existing Truscott and Marolt housing complexes, according to Tabatha Miller, city finance director. The increased revenue would allow the city to borrow $8 million with a 20-year payback, she said.

Rents at Truscott have gone up less than 1 percent a year for the past six years. Rents at Marolt went up $20 last year – the only hike there in 10 years, Miller said.

She proposed 10 percent hikes in rents in 2002 at both complexes, followed by 3 percent hikes annually. The 10 percent jump would mean $72 for a Marolt unit, which currently rents for $720 per month, and a $55 increase at Truscott, where apartments rent for $550 per month.

“They are certainly big [increases], but they are not out of line,” she said.

The council agreed the move is worth further consideration. Richards asked for a report on the impact of the increase over the next several years.

“What will that studio cost to rent in five years or seven years? It could be pretty pricey,” she said.

Another option, said Miller, is selling some of the new units to the private sector for the cost of their construction. She estimated privatizing 30 bedrooms would bring in $4.1 million.

The estimated subsidy for the new units at Truscott is $173,516 per unit and $139,659 per bedroom for 123 bedrooms.

“I really think we should look to the private sector – see if we can get some participation,” said Councilman Jim Markalunas.

The council could consider selling fewer than 30 bedrooms, added Richards.

With cuts at the clubhouse, a $500,000 influx from the general fund and anticipated golf course revenues, the council whittled the deficit for the golf piece of the project to $432,866. Members agreed they’d rather find the rest of the money in the city budget without using the new 0.5 percent sales tax for open space approved by voters earlier this month.

Miller proposed using the tax to borrow the funds and then repay the loan through golf revenues.

Richards flatly rejected the approach, and the council agreed. Voters didn’t approve the tax for that purpose, she argued.

The Truscott project includes 99 rental housing units in two phases of construction; expanded parking; a new clubhouse containing a restaurant, pro shop and nordic center; improvements to two greens on the golf course and six tennis courts.

The $10 million in infrastructure costs associated with the project includes a redesigned intersection at the Truscott entrance on Highway 82.

“This is a big undertaking,” Richards said. “I don’t think we’ve built anything as large since the original Truscott.”

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