Construction vehicles kick up dust on Midland Avenue, an area of concern for both City Hall and business owners. Photo by Will Buzzerd.
This week, the Council met to discuss the latest with RFTA ridership, the success of mental health programs in Basalt schools and what remains to be built this year as part of the Midland Avenue Streetscape project.
To start, Councilman Ryan Slack acknowledged a great final Sunday market, while Mayor Bill Kane presented a brief update from the RFTA. While the total number of RFTA users this year increased by 19.8% compared to 2022, the same value decreased by 11% compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic conditions).
This particular summer saw a significant decline in ridership, which Kane attributed to both service issues and travelers becoming accustomed to driving alone. Since the pandemic, RFTA usage has steadily increased year over year, and they recently voted to increase bus drivers’ base pay to $30 per hour in an effort to improve service and increase ridership. Additionally, RFTA has been redeveloping the Rodeway Inn in Glenwood Springs to build 42 units of affordable housing for its workers, hoping to attract employees with increasingly valuable housing.
Without a Manager’s Report, the Council proceeded to a series of presentations. The first was a report on mental health outcomes in the Roaring Fork School District, compiled in a three-year partnership between the District and Aspen Hope Center to provide counseling to students. Anna Cole, head of student and family services for Roaring Fork Schools, led the presentation. She recognized the need for mental health services to not only work with a troubled student but also with her family, but addressing this can be difficult without help.
“The last thing we want school staff to feel when they’re working in really difficult situations is that they’re alone, and these types of partnerships really help us feel like we have a deeper expertise to help kids and families.”
Cole also noted that in three years, the need for mental health resources has not decreased. However, she added that providing mental health services at a young age (including kindergarteners) reduces the stigma against seeking help.
Next up was the monthly update on the Midland Avenue Streetscape project, presented by project representative Dave Detwiler and City Engineer Catherine Christoff. Detwiler announced that next week, construction crews will be working on service connections for the north and south sides of Midland, which will mean temporary outages for businesses.
Additionally, the Homestead/Midland intersection will experience daytime closures on October 2 and 3 due to water line replacement.
“For the most part,” Detwiler said, “construction will move from west to east.” He said contractor Stutsman-Gerbaz is on track to finish the underground improvements by the end of November this year, with a strict deadline “before the asphalt plants close.”
Regarding large clouds of dust kicked up by construction and exacerbated by the recent spell of hot, dry weather, Kane asked how the problem could be addressed. Christoff said asphalt mats may be used in the future to help contain some of the dust.
Christoff remained at the table to present an update on the city’s solar project. Started in early 2022, the project encompasses five complexes located on Basalt School land and Public Works properties. One set is currently scheduled to be installed at Public Works by the end of November, but due to a lengthy permitting process, the sets on school property are not expected to be fully installed until spring of next year.
Senior Planner Sara Nadolny then provided an update on the Basalt Public Arts Commission’s 2023 grant program. Started five years ago to integrate the arts into the local economy, this year’s program received eight applicants (more than any previous year) with total funding requests exceeding the $65,000 budget.
The Commission selected seven applicants and allocated funds to TACAW. — specifically for the annual Pumpkin Jazz event (Oct. 7 this year), as well as The Art Base, HeadQuarters, VOICES (a Spanish-language theater production at TACAW, Oct. 20-22), Aspen Film, Aspen Dance Connection and , only, to local artist Art Williams. Williams will compose photographs and stories into a self-portrait of Basalt’s Latino community, gathering materials by paying for strangers’ laundry at the El Jebel Laundromat in exchange for brief recorded interviews.
Following the presentations, the Council resolved to commit to six homes per year as a basis for increasing the affordable housing stock to receive Proposition 123 grant funds. The Council also unanimously approved two ordinances, the first to grant revisions to the construction of a single-family home. in Homestead and the second to grant an extension of rights to build an automated car wash in Basalt Business Center.
Finally, Council approved a second reading for an ordinance voiding a water line easement on Swinging Bridge Lane.