Vail buys homes for ‘critical’ employees |

Vail buys homes for ‘critical’ employees

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Town of Vail dispatcher Amy Domke works Friday at her desk. Dispatchers are considered "critical" employees when it comes to housing. (Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily)

VAIL ” Over the past few years, the town of Vail has been buying condos across town ” one in Intermountain, one in the Chamonix area and two in the Vail Das Schone building.

The Town Council recently approved the purchase two more condos, one in Chamonix and one in East Vail, at a combined price of about $750,000.

Several council members said they want the condos to eventually be deed-restricted affordable housing for people who work in Vail.

But for now, all of those units are being rented to town of Vail employees, many of them “critical” employees such as firefighters, police officers, emergency dispatchers and mechanics.

“We could find ourselves in a position where we’re our own island here,” said Pam Brandmeyer, assistant town manager.

Interstate 70 is the only road to Vail, and it could be cut off by a mudslide or an avalanche, Brandmeyer said.

Those firemen, policemen and dispatchers would not be able to live in Vail without the affordable housing, Brandmeyer said.

The town keeps an eye on real estate listings, and will continue to look for condos it can buy, Brandmeyer said.

“We’ve had a need within our own organization and we feel there was a need to take care of our own employees,” she said.

One day, the condos might become deed-restricted units that will be sold to people who work anywhere in Vail, Brandmeyer said. But with housing so tight , she said she didn’t know when that would happen.

“With the housing crisis we’re all experiencing and observing, we’re trying to be very cautious about our housing stock,” Brandmeyer said.

The town is trying to keep 30 percent of town employees living in Vail, said Nina Timm, Vail’s housing coordinator.

“If the town has a number of vacant positions, we find that we are as challenged as anyone to hire as well as retain quality employees,” she said.

Vail police Officer Rafael Cabellero is a “critical” employee who lives in town housing. Cabellero lives at Buzzard Park near the golf course.

He’s a member of the county special operations unit and he’s also an investigator for serious traffic accidents.

“If they ever need me, I’m close by to respond,” he said.

Cabellero said he would probably live downvalley if it weren’t for the town housing.

Chief Dwight Henninger said the employee housing is important for the police department.

Police academy graduates arrive in December, during Vail’s high season, so it’s hard for them to find a place to live, Henninger said.

On a small scale, having someone close by can help when someone calls in sick, he said.

“On a much greater scale, when we have a huge incident, we’ve got people in town instead of having them to drive an hour, half an hour for them to come help,” Henninger said.

Mark Gordon, a Vail councilman, said he’s excited about the purchases whether they’re for town employees or for other workers.

“I’m just as excited that we’re being so aggressive and buying them when they come on the market,” he said.

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