ANB Bank will relocate into a new building near City Market. Courtesy graphic

After approving the consent agenda (accounts payable, a liquor license renewal for the American Legion and a fee to lease the town stage waived for First Friday’s Día de los Muertos celebration on Nov. 3), with no public comments, the Oct. 24 meeting began with trustee updates. All were present minus Luis Yllanes.

Among the updates, Lani Kitching announced the Garfield County withdrawal management facility will likely begin seeing patients in April 2024. Erica Sparhawk stated that there are 476 current members of the chamber of commerce, with 18 joining in September. Mayor Ben Bohmfalk said he had just signed the letter to the United States Forest Service approved at the Oct. 11 meeting.

Police Chief Kirk Wilson then presented his department’s budget, with $90,000 going toward 24/7 crisis clinician support from Aspen Hope Center, $3,000 for officer wellness, $66,000 overtime pay, $136,000 for two 2024 Ford Interceptors and $45,000 for fuel (a $21,500 increase to allow officers to take vehicles home).

Marty Silverstein asked about hybrid vehicles, to which Wilson responded they’re in conversation with CLEER about electrifying the fleet, but at present the performance of their hybrids “has been dismal.”

Parks and Rec Director Eric Brendlinger then talked about their budget. This includes $20,000 North Face Bike Park maintenance, $35,000 for playgrounds, $38,000 for park improvements, $19,500 for cemetery improvements, $15,000 toward Red Hill trails, $23,000 on integrated weed management with manual labor costs and additional training with Bee Happy Lands, $30,000 for bathhouse roof replacement at Gateway RV Park, $22,000 on Rec Center maintenance, $40,000 for special events, $50,000 for the electrification of mowing equipment and $4,000 to make the Miner’s Park irrigation system draw from the Rockford Ditch.

Dog parks will receive new signage before the end of the year and a process will begin to plan Chacos Park. Brendlinger budgeted $75,000 for implementation of a Chacos Park conceptual plan by spring. Meanwhile, the Crystal River Restoration work will receive $405,000 in grant funding to complete work including plantings. Some residents are concerned that small oil puddles persist on the riverbanks downstream.

The pool budget was then discussed. Brendlinger predicted a $11,693,692 cost for a gas-heated building and pool. He explained that investigations into net-zero potential have resulted in “sticker shock.” He said, “it’s doable, but not for a project like ours,” insisting that the master plan should be followed “if we want to give the public what they asked for” including a five-lane lap pool, a separate entertainment pool and a therapy spa.

Colin Laird insisted that Basalt’s pool has implemented air-source heat pumps with two bodies of water and a back-up natural gas system. Erica Sparhawk said there is funding available for these kinds of projects and they shouldn’t give up on heat pumps and electrification.

Next, trustees reviewed recommended changes to employee salaries with a 5% cost of living adjustment and 13.1% health insurance increase. Employees will receive more vacation days and Martin Luther King Jr. Day was made a staff holiday.

Quickly, “non-substantive” Unified Development Code amendments were approved to correct reference errors, reorder rows numerically and separate out a section of application requirements for clarity. The definition of “Household Living” was also changed to align with short-term rental regulations.

Little Blue Preschool’s approval on July 26 for a building expansion returned for final approval and trustees considered waiving certain fees in support of child care. “I’m very supportive of waiving the fees that we can on this,” said Laird. Staff recommended against waiving fees.

Director of Blue Lake Preschool Michelle Oger thanked Laird and emphasized that “Basalt has really jumped in and been huge supporters of child care, throwing property and money at people.” She said that it’s a difficult business and they rely on grant money to stay open and pay teachers.

“I agree on a dire need for more preschool,” Marty Silverstein said, “but if we want to support it … we need to come up with a funding mechanism for it.”

“I’m generally with Marty on this,” said Chris Hassig. He suggested waiving planning department and attorneys fees which passed 4-2 with Silverstein and Kitching voting “no.” Attorney fees were estimated between $2,000 and $5,000 and planning department at $1,740.

The big item of the evening was ANB Bank’s application to build a two-story, mixed-use, mostly- electric bank with commercial space and 16 residential units (three deed-restricted and all rentals) on Highway 133 just north of 7-Eleven and the Remax building.

“Thank you so much for a project that responded to everything we said last time,” said Bohmfalk, referring to changes made since ANB Bank’s 2021 proposal fell flat.

After a presentation by the project team, trustees unanimously approved the application with two additional conditions: 1. Reach out to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority about possibly purchasing the ANB Bank property next to the Park and Ride and 2. Review the flow of bicycle and pedestrian traffic with staff.