aspen police

Aspen Police Department Customer Service Officer Carla Cortes attends the front desk at the station on Monday. The police department reported a need for four additional officers during a Monday Aspen City Council work session. 

Following a series of work sessions looking at next year’s general fund, Aspen City Council continued their discussion on the 2022 recommended budget review during Monday’s work session. 

The meeting focused on police, special events, recreation, the Red Brick Center and the general fund. Departments requested supplemental funds and informed council of their goals for 2022 and struggles of the past year. Both the police and recreation departments announced staff shortages related to COVID-19. 

Assistant Police Chiefs Linda Consuegra and Bill Linn told council that the department is actively seeking three new officers and as of Monday began searching for a fourth. 

“Because of the hiring process, it takes us multiple months,” Linn said. “We’ve been trying to fill those slots since about April. We filled one — it was an internal promotion, but since then we’ve actually had resignations. We actually ended up looking for four people today because we had a resignation on Friday, too.”

The new officers would provide a greater focus on proactive community policing, according to Consuegra and Linn’s presentation. They would also respond to patrol requests — including having a presence in the downtown core, traffic safety, bike patrol and staff more “Donuts & Coffee With the Cops” events — and address an increased need for 24-hour supervision in town. 

Linn said that the department is also hoping to hear from the community to identify the greatest needs. The department will be asking community members through a community survey and outreach what they would like to see from the police department. 

Council members thanked Linn and Consuegra for the department’s efforts, particularly over the last year. Councilmember Rachel Richards added that she wanted to be sure that the department was not stretched too thin in terms of staff. 

“I particularly want to make sure that we have enough personnel who are trained competently to handle the traffic and safety issues out there until, God willing, we are able to solve the entrance to Aspen issue,” she said. “I really don’t want to be in the position — whether it’s over Christmas or March or next July — to have everyone very, very concerned about Power Plant Road traffic.”

Consuegra said the department can only handle training so many new officers at once, but also has the ability to over-hire a couple of positions if needed. 

The recreation department reported several challenges presented by COVID-19, including an increased demand, new restrictions and increased seasonal wages. The biggest impact was the loss of several dozen staff members from maintenance employees to lifeguards, Director Cory Vander Veen said.

“We have about 200 hockey games and all of five referees to do those games — and one of them is me,” Vander Veen said. “A lot of our resources for full-time staff have been going to our front lines just to keep basic facilities open.” 

He added that as a result, the department expects to make fee adjustments and increase some fees by up to 10%. The department also hopes to begin design and planning for a new pickleball facility, which would open in 2023. Richards said that the new facility should fill a community need. 

“We used to not have an [Aspen Recreation Center],” she said. “We had a really little, small outdoor pool, and it became a year-round pool when we put a bubble over it so that the school kids could learn to swim during the winter — and it wasn’t ideal but it served a community need.”

Mayor Torre agreed and said he would support an initiative to build a new facility, adding that it seems achievable and worthwhile. He said it would be nice to have a facility where indoor tennis and pickleball courts could be in the same space. 

The city wrapped up its general fund discussion on Monday. Council’s next meeting is today at 5 p.m., and members of the public will have an opportunity to give comments at the beginning of the meeting over WebEx or in person at City Hall.