A planner's rendering of Gail Folwell's "Stay Human" sculpture installed at the River Park. While the posts are now in the ground behind Free Range Kitchen, the bronze itself is coming soon. Courtesy graphic

Prior to their regular meeting on Oct. 11, Basalt Town Council held a work session with the West Mountain Regional Housing Coalition (WMRHC). Program Director April Long and Treasurer David Myler represented WMRHC, a multi-jurisdictional regional housing authority. They presented an update on its progress and plans for affordable workforce housing within the Roaring Fork and Middle Colorado valleys. “We’re all held together by the fact that this workforce that we have travels up and down the valley through all of our communities,” Myler said, “and the housing problems of each of these cities, towns and counties don’t stop at the borders, and neither do the solutions.”

Formed in 2022, WMRHC has been developing its programs, most notably a buy-down program modeled after Eagle County’s successful Good Deeds program. The coalition will provide up-front funds to “buy down” a market-rate house at a more affordable price in exchange for a permanent deed restriction being added to the property. This program is still in the works as the WMRHC develops a plan nimble enough to work in the rapidly changing housing environment.Currently, WMRHC relies heavily on member contributions and targeted grants for its funding. Attempts to procure larger state grants were so far unsuccessful. An expansion of funding is necessary for the success of its programs so, for now, the coalition is prioritizing local funding.

After opening the regular meeting, Mayor Bill Kane thanked Stutsman-Gerbaz — the contractor currently working on Midland — for its dust mitigation efforts after concerns were raised during a previous meeting. Town Manager Ryan Mahoney announced a $15,000 donation made from Basalts Parks, Open Space & Trails toward trail extensions to the top of Crown Mountain — adding up to 10 miles of additional trail.

Mahoney also introduced Michelle Muething of the Aspen Hope Center to present the mental health outcomes of 2022. Of the 647 crisis responses Aspen Hope Center performed in 2022, 65 took place in Basalt and 15 of those were in Basalt schools. Muething noted a Valley-wide rise in crisis calls and threat assessments over the past few years, including for younger children. Much of the Hope Center’s efforts are directed toward school programs as a preventative measure and, Muething noted, stigma around mental illness and seeking help has been diminishing.

Providing 24/7 rapid crisis response is a high priority for the Hope Center, and one of its biggest challenges. As demands increase, they hope for additional funding from local sources.

After this presentation, the council made several motions. The first was unanimous approval to appoint civil engineering and construction professional Ben Fierstein to a three-year term on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

In another motion, Town Council approved $149,000 in additional services to Connect One Design’s contract as part of the Streetscape Project. This cost came from value engineering efforts and the expanded scope of the project to include improvements to the Midland Spur.

After that, a resolution was approved to allow an exemption from nighttime lighting regulations to illuminate three sculptures coming to Basalt River Park. The bronze sculptures, titled “Stay Human” and created by local artist Gail Folwell, are yet to be installed behind Free Range Kitchen, but will contribute to the goal to “enlarge and improve Basalt’s art identity” as part of its Master Plan.

Also in arts, the council approved a resolution to direct funding from a real estate transfer assessment (RETA) to TACAW. The whole of the RETA was used for the construction of TACAW’s campus, but after building back up to over $800,000, TACAW will use 10% of the RETA for operating costs.

Last up, Town Staff presented its proposed budget for 2024. Manager Mahoney introduced the priorities of the budget, notably events planning after a successful summer concert series, as well as increased compensation for public employees to accommodate for an increased cost of living. After a month of rework and review, the final budget will be presented on Nov. 14.