The modern, $8 million-plus Aspen Ambulance District station will go a long way toward ensuring that ambulance personnel are fully prepared to handle each call and will also aid the district in recruiting and retaining the best talent, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Monday.
Peacock was speaking after Monday afternoon’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the 13,214-square-foot facility located next to Aspen Valley Hospital. Several dozen people — including residents, public officials, hospital employees, ambulance district workers and others close to the project —were on hand for the occasion, which included tours of the building.
“One of the most important calls that occurs is when you have a loved one who is having a medical emergency and you have to call 911 for help,” he said. “These people with the Aspen Ambulance District are the folks who make that response.”
Planning for the new ambulance headquarters started in 2013. The facility’s construction was funded through a property tax of .501 mills that was passed in 2014 by voters who reside within the special ambulance district, which consists of the city of Aspen and areas outside of town, but not the entire county, Peacock said. The Board of County Commissioners serves as the district’s board.
Several times during Monday’s event, officials credited the building’s neighbors for working with the county and the ambulance district on potentially contentious issues such as size, noise and location. Peacock said that putting the building next to the hospital — the station is taking up an area that formerly accommodated 14 parking spaces and some storage units for the county’s Health and Human Services Building, which also is nearby — made the most sense.
“At the time, there was a lot of discussion about potential locations — what the best location was going to be — and models for providing the service,” he said. “We had a public process and worked through those. We determined that this was really the best location, it terms of having it next to the facility that it was serving, and that given our population, having a hub response made the most sense. We spent time answering the questions and we feel this was the best solution for the community.”
The district’s administrators and personnel recently moved into the new building from their former station just up the hill. The old facility, just 2,800 square feet, was used to house ambulances and staff over the past 25 years. The county has not publicly discussed plans for a possible conversion for what some refer to as the “ambulance bus barn” or “ambobarn.”
County and district officials deemed the former station as too small and in below-average condition. An ambulance district news release states that “taller, modern ambulances were barely able to squeeze into the old facility which allowed just inches between the roof to the ambulances and ceiling of the bays.”
The new building, conversely, has ample room for six vehicles: four ambulances and two command SUVs. The lower floor contains the vehicle bays; exercise, training and decontamination rooms and storage. The upper level has bedrooms, bunk rooms, a kitchen and dining area. A wing of the facility is devoted to administrative offices and a conference room, according to the release.
“It’s a far cry from our old facility that was cramped and has building issues on a regular basis,” Muething said in a prepared statement.
In addition to thanking the nearby residents for helping to ensure that the project was realized, officials at Monday’s gathering also had praise for the “unsung heroes” of the ambulance district. The district’s staff includes 32 men and women who offer 24/7 pre-hospital emergency medical care. Within that total are 13 critical-care-level paramedics “which are not common in smaller communities,” the release adds.
Greg Poschman, who chairs the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, also gave credit to another partner in the project, Aspen Valley Hospital, whose chief executive officer, Dave Ressler, attended the event.
Poschman pointed out that the building has 85 solar panels to generate electricity, which will help the district save money. “It’s going to be producing more power than it uses,” he said, “actually selling some back to the [power] grid. Hopefully, going forward, this is what all of our buildings will be doing.”