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News : Emergency Dispatch Center Part of Real Estate Upheaval
Aspen, CO, USA, Aug 21, 2015 -- The upper valley’s emergency dispatch center that handles 911 calls and other matters concerning law enforcement, fire and ambulances is likely to be a part of the real estate upheaval involving county and city departments.
After Tuesday’s discussion at the joint meeting of the Pitkin County commissioners and Aspen City Council, officials said the center is likely to move from near the jail close to Main Street – where it has been for nearly 20 years – to the top floor of the Aspen Fire Protection District’s station in the North 40 at the Aspen Business Center.
"The Aspen fire board has agreed to allow that to happen, but we’re still in the leasing process," said Jodi Smith, Pitkin County’s facilities manager, on Thursday. Negotiations involve a 10- to 15-year lease, she said.
The dispatch center’s current space is expected, in the near term, to go to the construction company that the county hires for a new building adjacent to the Pitkin County Courthouse. That structure will house the offices of the sheriff, community development, treasury and assessment. Those departments are now in the courthouse, which will, in turn, gain space for a third courtroom and other judicial functions.
"Do we really need to be downtown?" said dispatch center director Bruce Romero, noting the need for both county and city office space — both government entities are undergoing multimillion-dollar infrastructure efforts — and his department not having a face-to-face requirement like other agencies.
Locating the dispatch center at the North 40 won’t affect its ability to handle emergencies, as the department will continue to utilize mountaintop antennas for emergency calls, he said.
"It does not need to be smack in the middle of downtown," Smith agreed.
The spaces of the current and possible future sites of the 911 call center are roughly similar at 2,500 square feet. Romero said locating the center at the Aspen Business Center may help in recruiting efforts for 911 operators, as hard-to-find candidates for the stressful job would find an easier commute without the seasonal traffic jams into downtown Aspen.
There is also another factor behind the likely move: Amid the large-scale, adjacent construction on the county library plaza and Rio Grande parking garage, dispatchers "can’t remain here" because of the noise and vibration the project is emitting, Romero said.
Don Bird, Pitkin County Jail administer, said he would like to utilize the current communication space after the construction firm moves out. Currently, inmates who are part of work-release sentences, meaning they leave daily and spend the night in jail, are unable to be segregated from other inmates when they depart and arrive, he said.
The new space could be used to alleviate that concern and also house a detoxification center. That site is now at Mind Springs Health near Aspen Valley Hospital.
"It may not be so bad to have that space [close to] the jail," Bird said. But "any plans I have for that are probably years away."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, August 24, 2015