By Joseph Lekarczyk
To say that things got a little confusing Monday night at the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting when the subject of amending the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the Town of Lyons and the Lyons Regional Library District came up on the agenda would be, a study in understatement.
Things were rolling along pretty well; Sgt. Bill Crist of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office reported that, “there were a couple of bumps” at the Planet Bluegrass concert over the weekend, but overall, “nothing major.” He also reminded those present that due to the leaf-peepers hoping to enjoy the fall colors in the mountains, weekend traffic through town will continue to be heavy for awhile.
Finance Director Anna Canada gave a brief financial update for the month of August. The revenue/expenditure numbers look good across the board, with the exception of the water and sanitation (wastewater) funds, which continue to operate at a loss. Ditto the year-to-date numbers.
Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the Trustees that the staff continues to work on the 2019 budget, and that the grading work on both Lyons Valley River Park and the new public works building is continuing. There is some paving work that still needs to be finished at the wastewater treatment plant, so the relocation of the recycling bins, from Railroad Avenue to the plant, is on hold. The move should take place by September 28.
Former Parks & Rec. Supervisor Kurt Carlson made a plea, during audience business, to the Trustees to reconsider the recent increases for out-of-town water users who fill up their water tanks at Town Hall. He felt the rate increase was making it more and more difficult for the average citizen to live in the Lyons community, and suggested they consider the rates that are charged by Hygiene. Kathleen Crane and former Trustee Sandy Banta of the Library District Board addressed the Trustees about an amendment in their IGA concerning the cost (approximately $10K) of relocating the flood warning siren situated on the future site of the new library. They were asking that the Town consider splitting the cost with the library. Former Mayor Nick Angelo also addressed the Board and reported that last week's Summit community meeting on the proposed affordable housing project in Lyons Valley Park was well attended, and very informative.
Mayor Connie Sullivan read a proclamation thanking Governor John Hickenlooper for his ongoing help in the Lyons' flood recovery efforts, and officially christened a loop trail in the new Bohn Park as the “Governor John HickenLOOPer Way.”
Acting as the Lyons Marijuana Licensing Board, the Trustees approved a retail marijuana license for Teah Welsch-Rainek and Kelsey Fox of High Culture LLC, doing business as High Culture Cannabis at 4170 Ute Highway (the recently subdivided Blue Mountain Stone lot). Only Angelo spoke during the public hearing, and he questioned why only a retail license was needed when the two other dispensaries in town were required to have both medical and retail licenses.
Town Attorney Brandon Dittman indicated to the Trustees that in his opinion no such requirement was mandated by the state. When Angelo attempted to dispute Dittman's interpretation Sullivan indicated that Angelo had had his say, and it was time to take a vote, which passed unanimously.
During Boards & Commissions updates the Trustees heard from the Sustainable Futures Commission (SFC) concerning the EcoPass for bus riders, and the possible funding of a full-time sustainable futures coordinator position for Lyons (or shared by other mountain towns, i.e., Nederland, Ward, Jamestown, and Lyons).
Apparently RTD rates are going up, and ridership between Lyons and Boulder is going down. Boulder County and the Board want to continue to subsidize the EcoPass to encourage commuters, but are grappling with what to charge for the pass (currently $40 per pass with a $120 cap for families). All of this will be worked out during the upcoming budget meetings.
Sullivan also asked SFC to create some sort of educational/informational program to inform the commuting public just what a great deal the EcoPass is, and to generate increased ridership. It was also reported that RTD would be discontinuing the mid-day bus between Lyons and Boulder.
The September accounts payable; the August 20 BOT meeting minutes, and the first reading of an ordinance regarding the term of the Mayor of the Town of Lyons on the consent agenda were approved. A prelude of the confusion to come popped up when Trustee Mark Browning requested that the first reading of an ordinance regarding the charging of interest on delinquent utility accounts be pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion. Sullivan pointed out that it was a first reading, and any discussion would take place at the second reading and public hearing. Browning rescinded his request. Then Trustee Barney Dreistadt asked that two other items, a resolution to accept a new whistleblower policy/grant application process policy/personally identifiable information policy/and purchasing procedures policy; as well as a resolution to enact the 2015 international fire code effective within the Town of Lyons, with certain exceptions be pulled for further discussion later in the meeting.
The first item under general business was the aforementioned IGA between the Town and the Lyons Regional Library District. Trustee Jocelyn Farrell began by saying she was having a difficult time reading the resolution and figuring out exactly how much money was involved, $1K, $4K, $10K, or $26K, and what was being asked of the Trustees. Farrell asked that the language and numbers be made a little more clear in the pursuit of total transparency for any residents who might want to suss out the numbers themselves. Town Planner Paul Glasgow took a shot at clearing the confusion. The $10K was for moving the flood warning siren, and this would be offset by the fact the moving the skate park and money for the RV dump station was no longer needed for a net gain of $6K. This only seemed to make things a little more murky to most of those within earshot. Then the Town Attorney took a stab with numbers that seemed to contradict what Glasgow had said. Then it was Simonsen's turn with much the same result; with everyone seeming to have a different set of calculations and net results. Town Engineer Joe Kubala jumped into the fray and explained that the $1K was for the design of a RV dump station, and funds were for the construction of said dump station, which was no longer needed because the Town was going to build a new one at the wastewater treatment plant anyway. Waivers for tap fees and reduced user rates for water were thrown into the mix. Trustee Michael Karavas reiterated his point from the last meeting that the Utilities & Engineering Board had recommended against tap fee waivers because it led to less revenue for much needed capital improvement projects. Sullivan felt that the Town hadn't actually made any financial contributions to the Library District because the Town still technically owned the land, and since this was in effect a public building that would benefit the entire Lyons community including both the teenage population and the senior citizens it would to everyone's benefit, residents and businesses, to help the district make this the best facility it can be. Browning saw it differently.
He said the Library District was a separate taxing entity, and listed a litany of contributions, waivers, reduced fees, potential value of the land, etc., which he tallied to total a little over $1.3M. He prefaced this by stating that he had worked hard to get the Library District on the ballot and get it passed, as well as being on the Library Board in the early stages of its formation.
Browning was adamant that these contributions, waivers, etc., were being funded by the tax payers, and were tantamount to “double-dipping.” He doubted that the voters would have passed the measure if they had known about the added expenses they were being asked to foot.
Sullivan began refuting some of Brownings numbers (particularly the potential $1M price tag for the land) and arguments, saying, “This is a transitional property for the town,” and that they were quibbling over about $5K. When Browning tried to counter, the Mayor stopped him saying, “Excuse me, I have the floor. I didn't interrupt you when you were speaking!” When Sullivan later asked for a motion to approve the IGA as is, and it was moved and seconded, it was still not entirely clear (at least to Browning, and possibly others) whether it included splitting the cost of the relocation of the siren or not. The vote failed in a 2 to 5 vote (Browning and Trustee Juli Waugh voted yes). A second motion was almost immediately made and seconded to approve the IGA with the amendment to share the $10K price tag for the siren fifty/fifty. This motion passed 4 to 3 (Browning, Karavas, and Trustee Wendy Miller voted no).
A short break was called, and upon reconvening the Board took up the thorny issue of Lyons Properties' (aka Riverbend/Wee Casa) appeal of Simonsen's ruling/interpretation of the utilities owed, Lyons Town Code, and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that both parties agreed to at the time of annexation. Waugh and Miller immediately recused themselves, and left the chambers (Waugh, because she is married to one of the partners of Lyons Properties, and Miller because she works for them). Dittman cautioned the remaining Trustees that the public hearing portion of the proceedings had been closed at the last meeting, and since it was “a quasi-judicial proceeding no further information could be considered,” and only “clarifying questions about information already in the record could be asked.” Farrell wanted to ask a question about sewer capacity/flow, but that was deemed outside the scope of allowability. Browning then submitted for the record an eleven page “Positions on Issues Presented by Lyons Properties, LLC Utilities Appeal” document that he had worked up. It encompassed things that he felt were not at issue and shouldn't be considered, as well as general background, primary issues, the MOA, the charge of arbitrary formula, inconsistency in arguments, errors in billing, billing for services not provided, and proper wastewater service category. At the end of his presentation, Browning indicated he would vote to, “uphold the position of Town staff.” Dreistadt concurred and added that the math/billing errors could and should be addressed at the staff level. Sullivan added that, “to overturn a staff decision takes a high threshold.” Farrell indicated she was not comfortable with the fact that Lyons Properties had not been charged for their unusable water taps immediately after the way that other utility customers were. When the vote was called for, it was five to zero (Waugh and Miller had recused) in favor of Simonsen's findings and the appeal was denied.
The Mayor then asked for a consensus from the Board concerning a resolution in support of a state-wide ballot initiative Prop #110. A sales tax increase of .62%, with the money going for transportation projects across the state, which Sullivan suggested would bring an additional $75K annually into the Town's coffers. Several Trustees expressed reluctance to promote any sales tax increase, but conceded that it was more than necessary and that this was the best solution. Dreistadt even hoped out loud that his wife was not at home watching the live stream of the meeting.
Sullivan then asked for a consensus for a resolution against ballot issue Prop #74, which she said was being pushed and funded by outside oil and gas money that would allow people to sue the state government for compensation of perceived loss of value to their land. Browning, who was a lawyer for the state of Texas for over twenty years, and had even argued a “takings” case before the United States Supreme Court, was adamantly Prop #74, saying in his opinion it would dramatically and negatively affect the takings laws in Colorado.
The two previously mentioned items removed from the consent agenda were passed after a few lines were added to a where-as in one, and a little wordsmithing was done to the other.
The Trustees gave their reports, a summary of action items was laid out, and an executive session to discuss strategies, positions, and negotiation tactics regarding real property interests in the Eastern Corridor (4651 Ute Highway) and within the Town limits was called. The meeting was adjourned following the executive session.