Aspen Valley Hospital officials and city planners are seeking to delay tonight’s potentially final scheduled public hearing on the hospital expansion proposal until May 13.
“With the issues that came up at the April 8 hearing, applicant and staff are requesting more time to provide information to the City Council,” says a memo to council from Aspen’s deputy planning director Jennifer Phelan.
AVH CEO David Ressler said Sunday that council already has a full agenda without holding a public hearing on the hospital tonight, and that the project team is happy to take the extra time and come back “fully prepared.”
“We want to come back and address every question and concern council had,” Ressler said.
At the last meeting, Mayor Mick Ireland questioned hospital officials about their claim that operating expenses won’t significantly increase with the new facility, which would be about triple the size of the pre-expansion hospital, built in the 1970s.
In general, some in the community are concerned that the larger hospital will lead to bigger medical bills, or a future request for higher property taxes.
Voters in 2010 approved a property tax increase to fund $50 million in bonds for the $140 million project. The rest will be funded through $30 million in cash reserves and a $60 million fundraising campaign that is just getting started. Hospital officials say they will not proceed with the final build out until all the money has been raised.
“We felt we made that presentation last time, but it seems likes some council members are not settled,” he said. “The project is being funded with dollars that are already secured. We won’t have to come back for more.”
The visual impact of phase two’s construction has also been a cause for concern, as the big new buildings are clearly visible from the Highway 82 roundabout area.
City Council granted conceptual approval for the four-phase expansion in 2009, and the first two phases received final approval in 2010. Those phases, which include a parking garage and affordable housing units, are under construction with some elements finished.
Phases three and four’s 82,000 square feet include a new emergency room, patient care spaces and doctors’ offices, as well as a new entrance to the hospital. Unlike phase two, most of the latter phases’ bulk and mass will be on the back of the site.
Councilman Torre expressed reservations on April 8 about the design of the new entrance, saying the architecture was to grandiose.
Ressler said project planners are looking at the entrance again to meet Torre’s concerns.
The hospital’s portion of the April 8 City Council meeting did not start at 8:45 p.m., and ran until about midnight, as council took numerous public comments. Moving the next hospital meeting to May 13 will hopefully avoid another late night, Ressler said.
“It would be nice to get on at a decent time and have everyone fresh,” he said.
While there will be a municipal election on May 7 where voters will voice their preference for mayor and two open council seats, the new board won’t be seated until mid-June.
There are still numerous items on council’s agenda tonight, including a proposal to lower the speed limit on most Aspen streets to 20 mph, and a change to the local election code that would require political candidates identify people who give them less than $20.
The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.