Littleton City Council Meeting – March 18, 2008

Littleton City Council Meeting Minutes

March 18, 2008

 Scheduled Appearances

Senator Steve Ward appeared before the council for his mid-session visit and asked them what Littleton needed from him.  Jim Taylor asked for the Senator not to support a bill regarding eminent domain and RTD.  The bill pertains only to RTD and limits what they can claim through eminent domain.  Senator Ward said he usually supports any bill that limits the ability of government through the use of eminent domain.  He believes that markets can better determine what should develop around the RTD stations.  He understands the need to condemn land for the needed parking.


Taylor said the taxpayers supported Fast Tracks and Ward said he voted for Fast Tracks but he was not interested in making RTD a land developer.


Doug Clark asked the Senator what legislation would have impact on Littleton to which Ward said it was a very boring session and he didn’t see anything that was going to cause great concern for Littleton.


Senator Ward is carrying a Residential Protest bill that will limit what protesters can do in a neighborhood – this legislation is very similar to what he got passed in Arapahoe County when he was a commissioner.


Senator Ward is also sponsoring a bill that would provide the option of the death penalty for sexual offenders committing rape on a child the age of 12 and under.  It has passed out of the Senate and is now in appropriations.  An amendment was offered that he accepted that would make the death penalty an option but only on the second offense.


Jan Brosseau, a representative of the Bega Sister City Exchange, presented a second piece of Aboriginal art to the city from the Bega group.  She thanked the council for their financial support – the additional $750 will be spent on hosting the 26 member group from Bega this August.  There will be a civic dinner to which the council members are invited to attend.  She said the money contributed by council every year is used to reach out to the community by having a float in the WWW parade, and by running ads in the Littleton Independent soliciting a student ambassador from the high schools.  They also supported the historic designation of Bega Park and they sponsored the flying of the US and Australian flags in Bega Park with the help of South Suburban.  The group is always looking for new members and anyone interested can contact her at 303.798.4044.

 Unscheduled Public Appearances

Norm Brown, who lives in District 1, commented on his District’s representation by Jim Taylor.  Taylor referred to the new council as a dictatorship and Brown did not think that was helpful.  He did not think the use of the word was helpful during the WalMart hearings when certain T-shirts worn by citizens were not going to be allowed to be worn  in the meeting.  That decision the city wisely backed away from. 


Brown said the attempt to force property owners into a historic district without their consent was dictatorial in nature.  He found it hard to understand how someone who supports personal property rights could also force property owners into a historical district.  He questioned the ability of Taylor to represent District 1 – his inability to accept the majority opinion of the voters on the election of the new council and on past issues.  Brown believes in a peaceful transfer of power and Taylor’s comments are a disservice to democracy.


David Mitchell, DU professor, presented the council with copies of the 5 reports presented to council by his students on sewer rate setting.  He said all 5 groups concluded that the updating of the facility to meet the federal and state standards was necessary, that the expansion was not necessary, the capacity of the plant is 50 million gallons per day and only 25 are needed, they all would not recommend the hiring of Red Oak in the future, and the accounting of the sewer plant needed to be cleaned up.  For the rates themselves, the groups agreed that 25% of the total construction cost should be born by the users and 75% of the total construction costs should come from tap fees.  All increases should come from the users outside the city.

 Consent Agenda

Quick Claim deed of Sanitary Easement to Englewood passed 7/0


Motion to add two alternate positions to the Historic Preservation Board was passed 7/0.

 General Business

Phil Cortese, sitting in for Jim Woods, reviewed the next steps in the search for a new city attorney.  The consultant will meet with the subcommittee on April 3 in an executive session to discuss the finalists.  A special meeting needed to be scheduled for April 7th for the council to discuss the candidates in an executive session.


Peggy Cole made a motion to hold a special meeting on April 7th at 6:30 and to have an executive session pursuant to the Open Meetings Law section 24-6-402 (4)(f) personnel issues, and negotiations per section 24-6-402 (4)(e).  Mulvey offered an amendment to start at 7 pm.  After some discussion Mulvey’s motion was voted on and failed 1/6 with Mulvey the only one voting yes.  The main motion passed 7/0.


Cole made a motion to hold a special meeting on April 3rd for the subcommittee of the council to hold an executive session to discuss their selection.  (By this time I had my hand raised trying to get Clark’s attention because the motion was out of order and would not have been abiding by the Open Meetings Law.)  Ostermiller asked Bailey if the council needed to have a quorum in order to hold the special meeting.  Bailey said the law allowed for an exception for the executive session.  (Bailey is wrong, wrong, wrong  If that were true any three members of the council could convene in an executive session whenever they felt the need or desire to do so.)


Clark asked to postpone the decision until he could look into the matter further.


Cortese said the police have changed the look of their police cars and citizens would be seeing two different looking police cars for awhile.


Cortese told the council that they would not be getting the river designation subject on the agenda until April 1st.  He wanted to provide the absent council members with the materials that were given to the others at last week’s meeting.  Staff also had some work to do.


Mary Roberts will be leaving Littleton to take a job in California.  He said not only do you have to have the technical background to do her job but you have to have the temperament and Mary did.  She was pursued and has been considering the new job for the past few weeks.


Debbie Brinkman congratulated the Littleton Hawks Hockey Team for their state championship win this past weekend.


The Fine Arts committee is concerned about some of the deteriorating pieces of public art that are in serious need of repair.  The Bronze sculpture “Year of Sundays” will be moved from the triangle at Main Street and Alamo to the yard at the Court House.  The two winners of the Eye of the Camera will have their own show this month at the museum. 


Brinkman thanked Cathy Weaver and Kelli Narde for their help in getting the Fine Arts Committee web activities going.


Brinkman said there are trees left so the deadline has been extended.  If you are interested in ordering trees, please go to the city’s web site.  The Tree Committee will be looking at their scope of work with the new members and will be presenting to the council soon.

 Brinkman offered a reminder to all District IV citizens to attend her “District 4 Cares, You Share” meeting on Saturday, March 22nd at 1:30 to 3:30 at the Carson Nature Center Classroom.     

Ostermiller reported that the two fire districts are in agreement that the efficiency study is needed and they are willing to share in the cost and take an active part in the RFP process. 


Taylor reported that the Littleton Housing Authority has had a high performance rating that they will no longer have to be reviewed on an annual basis.  He also reported that the LHA will be creating some sort of entity that would entitle them to go after redevelopment funds that the LHA can’t go after.


Cole said she is making a formal request for two agenda items on the April 1st agenda.

1.      The creation of a council subcommittee to update the legislative procedures

2.      The creation of an ad hoc subcommittee on communications. 


Clark asked that the picture from Bega be framed. 


Clark also mentioned the “spotty” sound system in the community room.  Narde said she sent a nasty-gram to the vendor.  The microphones have been reordered.  She has been assured that if the system is still not working once replacement equipment is installed the entire system will be pulled out and replaced.  She has not paid the $59,000 bill.


Cole asked if it was possible to get the names of other organizations that use the system and see what they think of the system’s performance.  Narde said a lot of the customers were churches and she would be curious to know too.  The system is a fairly new system – on the cutting edge.


Clark met with some of the downtown property owners about parking in downtown.  Since the downtown area is the first priority for the Complan he thought some background work should be done – where could parking be located and how big did it need to be to handle uses – do we ask staff to do this or hire a consultant.


Cortese agreed and said he would sit down with Mary Roberts and look into it.

 Sewer Rates

Tiffany Hooten presented a spreadsheet showing a projected 4% increase in user fees to cover the projected future costs of the sewer plant. 


Clark suggested two different increases.

1.      Double the tap fees for inside users from $2,500 to $5,000 and double the fees for the outside users from $2,828 to $5,656.

2.      Create 3 classes of users (below) and increase user fees for the outside users not connected by 20% yielding $1 million in revenue which may be close to breaking even.  The inside users would still subsidize a portion of the plant expansion.  The three classes of users are:

            a)  Inside users connected

            b)  Inside users not connected

            c)  Outside users not connected


Clark moved to direct staff to bring forth an ordinance to do so.


Ostermiller, for sake of clarification, said the outside users would be increased 20%, the inside users would see no increase, and the inside users not connected would see no increase.  I don’t know if that is legal.


Mulvey seconded the motion.


Ostermiller said if we can’t sell any taps it won’t make a difference how much we sell them for.  Increasing tap fees won’t help us attract any new homes – it is not a good time to increase tap fees.  The 4% increase makes a lot of sense.  Are you (Doug) overlooking the $15 million in reserves that came from tap fees to be used for the expansion?  The $44 million collected in the past 20 years should be used for the expansion – we still have $15 million in cash.  We don’t need to raise tap fees.


Also, increasing the outside users fees by 20% – they are customers just like we are customers.  They are on the hook like the rest of us.  If we can’t make our bond payment we are all on the hook.  There is no need to penalize them – it is a regional plant and that is why the EPA helped to pay for the plant back several years ago (I didn’t get the precise year Ostermiller stated).  Everyone in the district has to be treated the same and he would not be supporting Clark’s motion.


Taylor asked Clark to go through his numbers again.


Brad Bailey said he had some legal concerns about Clark’s motion.  There has to be a rational basis for doubling of the fees and he is not sure the city has the data.


Clark said the city had the data to set the tap fees at $10,000.  Setting the rate at $5,000 is a gradual increase that can be re-evaluated in 2009.  We don’t know how much adding Roxborough to our system will add to our expenses and we will need to re-evaluate.


Ostermiller asked if Clark was referring to operating expenses to which Clark said yes.


Clark is still a proponent of growth paying for growth and any figure they use will be arbitrary and rather than start at $10,000 and adjust down he was willing to start at $5,000 and increase if necessary.  We may not get what we need – we don’t know how many taps we will sell.


Ostermiller asked him if he was ignoring the $44 million collected in tap fees and the $15 million.


Clark said it is difficult to know how much has been spent on plant expansions – the building and rebuilding.  Ostermiller said $22 million in excess tap fees were collected and used to subsidize the operation of the plant.  Tap fees paid for the prior expansions with some leftover.  Clark said he disagreed but agreed philosophically.


Ostermiller asked Clark where the $15 million came from.  Clark said they collected more in user fees than it took to run the plant.  We built a plant that didn’t work – a $20 million dollar screw-up – who paid for that?


Ostermiller said doubling the tap fees would add $875,000 to the Lexan project (on the Electron site) and if that is a breaking point for them they might decide to walk.  There’s competition out there and if we want to sell our excess capacity we have to be competitive.  Ostermiller had heard that Sterling Ranch is doing an analysis if it will be cheaper to build their own plant, rebuild an old plant or pay to use our system.  We won’t get them as customers.


Taylor echoed Ostermiller.  He is worried about the development within the city.  He would feel more comfortable if all the projects in the city had already been approved.  It could be the death knell for those that are struggling anyway – it could push them over the edge.


Jose ran on the belief that growth should pay for growth and most citizens were mad about the increase in their sewer rates.  The plant should have never been built and he doesn’t want to see Littleton customers paying for it again.  He was willing to increase the tap fees to $8,000 – water and sewer tap fees in Broomfield are $25,000 and it hasn’t stopped them.


Ostermiller said when you pay $2,000 to $3,000 per acre for land it makes a difference.  You have to look at the total package.  When land is cheap you can charge whatever you want.


Mulvey said we have to pay for a plant that wasn’t in order.  The presentations by the students were good and they needed to raise the fees.


Ostermiller asked Bailey if a special district could charge different rates to their different members.  Bailey said he did not know and would have to look into it.


Cole asked if they needed to do this tonight – she thought it was important to see what others are charging and how they have justified their increases in the past.  She did not understand why the tap fee rate in Littleton has stayed the same when inflation impacts everything.


Motion passed 5/2 with Taylor and Ostermiller dissenting.


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