Your Morning News - February 2nd, 2015

Feb 2, 2015

Pitkin County Library Plans to Move During Expansion Work

Later this month the Pitkin County Library will begin its multi-million dollar expansion project. In order to save time and money, the plan is to move about one-third of the collection to the old Aspen Art Museum.

Head librarian Kathy Chandler is hoping that a new tenant for the museum space will not be ready to move in by April. That’s when she wants to move library operations to the empty building on North Mill Street.

“Possibly we will move everything out and then and let the contractor have at the building...because they will be able to do the work a lot more efficiently if they don’t have to work around the staff and the public and the collection...but a lot of it has to do with timing.”

Chandler is waiting to hear from Aspen City Council on when it plans to select one of five local nonprofits to become a tenant in the old museum space. If the timing works, the library would take it over temporarily. The remaining collection would be moved to storage possibly at the parking garage in Snowmass Village.

“So if things just go absolutely perfectly we would move part of the collection down to the art museum...we would bring a lot of the children’s collection and then the most popular, newest parts of the adult collection down to that building and... we are hoping we can store a lot of the rest of our materials in kind of dead storage.”

The existing library would be open in a limited capacity during construction. The expansion will add 5,108 square feet to the building. Chandler expects the project to be complete by the end of summer in 2016.

Cross-Country Racers Announced for World Championships

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has named its cross-country team for world championships. The men’s team includes two Aspen athletes - Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman.

Hoffman crashed at a race in Finland in November and broke his fibula. He had surgery and has been recovering ever since. He got back on snow three weeks ago. He says he feels healthy, but he’s unsure how the competition will turn out.

“I’ve never gone eight weeks without serious racing and I haven’t gone this long without having to use my legs very much. So, it’s really going to be a mystery.”

Hoffman will race one World Cup race before the World Championships. They’re held in Sweden on February 18th.

Health Insurance Tax Form in the Mail

Starting this week, residents who bought health insurance through Colorado’s online health insurance marketplace will be receiving a new tax document in the mail.

Connect for Health Colorado is sending a form to every customer who purchased health coverage through the website in 2014. The goal is to help those residents file their federal income taxes. The document is called the Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, and includes what customers paid for insurance as well as any tax credits received. Forms arrive in the mail this week but will also be available online.  

One Year Legal = 14 Pot Shops in the Roaring Fork Valley

A year into retail marijuana, there are 14 recreational pot shops operating in the Roaring Fork Valley. Today we'll take a look at the legal marijuana business from one end of the Valley to the other and how momentum has shifted from the mid Valley to Aspen.

Longtime Carbondale resident Tom Bleskan is standing outside of what could be his new line of work. He’s next to a small warehouse.

“This will be a retail marijuana grow cultivation site.”

It would be a big change for Bleskan, who’s worked in construction and business consulting. And if he gets approval, Bleskan would be part of the next big shift in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Starting this year, businesses can grow marijuana without running a retail shop too.

“…I think it’s a great thing that the state is doing this, I’m excited about what we have going on here and I want to be a part of it. And I want to make money.”

Bleskan’s a step or two away from getting the go ahead from the Town of Carbondale. The approval hinges on where he would be located, close to the center of town.

Reporter in the field: “We’ve got an excavation services on the north side here it looks like, and town homes or rentals of some kind on the south side.”

“...That’s correct and across the street it’s a commercial building. ... And as you hear, the background noise you’re hearing is a cleaner’s around the corner,” said Bleskan.

Bleskan needs clearance to run his operation here because of requirements by the Town of Carbondale, and the state. Restrictions have narrowed where grow operations can happen. And Carbondale officials might change the rules a little, so marijuana-related businesses aren’t so concentrated.

For aspiring grower Tom Bleskan, there’s lots of competition for selling to pot shops in Carbondale. If they’re not growing their own, they can now buy from wholesalers in Denver. So Bleskan is researching the demand.

“...I have to tailor my grow to their need. They’re my customers and what they’re looking for, and what their customers are looking for. If I can produce a niche product.”

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot says the number of stores to sell to in Carbondale likely won’t change much. She describes the cap on retail shops as successful. There are four with room for one more.

“I think having it grow at a smaller, slower pace, and having those caps, at our discretion, I think are important to make sure we don’t overdo it.”

Further down valley, Glenwood Springs does not have a formal restriction on the number of retail pot shops — but land use codes have effectively limited them to three. That brings the total between the two towns to seven retail shops.

Meanwhile, farther Upvalley in Basalt, the cap on retail and medical marijuana stores is two total. Just one shop is in operation.

(NAT. SOUND - Alicia Fetters): “This is the Mad Cow. This is our old display but let’s smell this new stuff…”

Manager of Roots R-X Alicia Fetters pops open a container of fragrant marijuana buds.

“It smells like it tastes. It smells really sweet and good.”

Roots R-X is Basalt’s lone pot shop and is on the southside of town. It’s in a multi-use building near car repair businesses and a plant nursery.

The business opened in November. And so far, business has been so-so.

“It could be a little busier, if we weren’t tucked away. No one really comes to this side of Basalt, so if we had a better location I think we’d be a little busier, but we’re doing great.”

Roots R-X is a chain. Its original store is in the Vail Valley and the owners are hoping to open up in Leadville. Fetters says although there are many places to buy pot legally in the state, the black market continues to be the company’s biggest competitor.

“In Colorado the black market is up there because “rec” is up there. It’s a lot cheaper than “rec.” The state added all these taxes that people don’t want to pay.”

Fetters says she feels Basalt welcomed the store to the community. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt cut the ribbon the day it opened.

“In my opinion, every business is a good addition to Basalt. I think things are really starting to crank up in Basalt and this is just one more business that’s hopefully going to be successful.”

A short drive up Highway 82 brings you to the Valley’s mecca of marijuana: Aspen. Here, six retail marijuana stores are targeting locals, wealthy visitors and X Gamers. City Clerk Linda Manning says Aspen’s tourist base is a draw for marijuana entrepreneurs.

“I think Aspen in and of itself is appealing. The brand “Aspen” says a lot.”

The city of Aspen doesn’t have a cap on the number of stores that can operate, but the market may be becoming saturated. For the first time in about a year, the city isn’t looking over a marijuana application this month. In the other Upvalley community of Snowmass Village, a moratorium on recreational marijuana stores is in place until 2017.

AVSC Instructor Charged in Sexual Assault Case

The Alpine Valley Ski and Snowboard Club instructor arrested last week is also the father of reality television star Heidi Montag. Police arrested Glenwood Springs resident William Montag Thursday for three felony counts each of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and aggravated incest. The alleged incident does not involve anyone under his care at AVSC. The investigation is ongoing and Montag will be extradited to Arapahoe County where the warrant was issued. Montag’s daughter, Heidi, starred in the MTV reality series The Hills.

City/Country Buys More Rights to Smuggler

The opportunity for mining in Aspen’s most popular open space is now smaller. Pitkin County and the City of Aspen announced Friday they’ve acquired certain mineral rights.

According to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails office, the two governments made the purchase Thursday for rights underneath Smuggler Mountain Open Space. The area is the most popular for Aspen area users, according to a City of Aspen survey last year. Smuggler is owned by both the city and Pitkin County.

Representatives of the two governments bid $34,000 yesterday at an auction. Mining on Smuggler has taken place before along parts of the open space. Pitkin County says the move will make mining even more unlikely than before.  Pitkin County and the City of Aspen have spent a combined $21 million to protect the area.