City Council Study Session 01.10.2017

City Council Study Session   01.12.2017

Citizen Minutes

There were four agenda items.

 1.  Judge Feldman’s Review. Council was pleased with Judge Feldman’s performance and will be offering him an increase in his hourly rate to $99. (Judge Feldman is not an employee of the city but is contracted at an hourly rate. He presides over our court proceedings.) Doug Clark wasn’t sure that a contract judge was the right way to go but others on council (Jerry Valdes, Bill Hopping and Debbie Brinkman) were happy with the arrangement.

2.  Highline Canal Conservancy – A short presentation was made to garner support for a resolution at a future council meeting that would demonstrate the council’s support for the Conservancy’s vision and action plan. The group’s mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile legacy Canal in partnership with the public. Clark asked if the reason for moving to a Conservancy from a working group was to be able to raise funds. The answer was yes.

3.  Update on discussions with South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) and Cunningham Fire Protection District (CFPD) – Chief Armstrong (City of Littleton), Chief Bob Baker (South Metro Fire Protection District) and Chief Jerry Roads (Cunningham Fire Protection District) were there to provide the council with an update on where they are with their effort to consolidate. (Council gave them the green light to take a look at what it would mean for all parties if the different fire districts were to merge and become one large fire district. This would mean that Littleton would no longer have a fire department. A fire district would be formed and we would pay property taxes to them for services.) They reported that they have started data gathering – response times, capabilities, transport numbers, personnel, borders, call volume. Once they have the data collected they will attempt to join the data points to see what a unified department would look like. They have met with the Littleton Fire Protection District (different than our city fire dept), the South Metro Fire and Rescue, the Cunningham Board, and they will be meeting with Highlands Ranch Fire District later this month.

They told the council that their job is to provide the best service at the lowest cost. This (consolidation) is not something that has just “popped up” this year – they have been discussing this for years but they have never come this close before said Chief Roads. The big thing is – community. There are different communities and they have different wants and cultures. How do you take care of ½ million people and make them all happy. Littleton has a long history – longer than any other.

Valdes said he understood the efficiency part but at what point are there diminishing returns? It is always good to look at options – government is growing and you would be another agency that’s growing. They are too big now. Chief Armstrong said that was a valid concern – there’s a fine line. Don’t know when big is too big.

Phil Cernanec asked what the incremental benefit was to justify the loss of control. Chief Roads said this is the area he really likes to dig into – with 2,000 FTEs you start losing efficiencies.

Peggy Cole mentioned the short lived talks with partnering with Englewood and asked why this partnering would be better than the Englewood one that was turned down. Why not partner with Denver?

Bill Hopping said a lot of it comes down to how the taxing works for the existing departments. He was interested in seeing the data and how combining districts would impact Littleton.

4.  LIFT – Discussion of options on repayment of LIFT debt to the City – Bruce Beckman started the conversation by reporting that there are 3 vacancies on the LIFT board and another member does not want to be reappointed. The loss of four members and LIFT not having an Executive Director leaves the board in a difficult situation to deal with their issues. The decisions they were about to discuss were not theirs to make but if council did not help LIFT the 6 month clock would run out on them. (The 6 month clock that Beckman is referring to is in the UR law but only applies to the abolishment of urban renewal authorities.) He said they could identify the bumps in the road but the decisions needed to be actions taken by LIFT.

Mike Braaten, Deputy City Manager, presented options for dealing with the outstanding debt and return of the tax increment to the respective taxing entities saying they were just recommendations. The statute does not address what to do – this is a grey area – where do you assign the debt? (There are four urban renewal plans and three have been repealed. Do you assign a portion of the debt to each plan?)

Beckman mentioned the legal requirement that debt had to be paid before increment could be returned but it wasn’t clear to him how to do that. Braaten said they could assign all the debt to Columbine Square – it would require amending the IGA. Beckman said he was not comfortable about creating another loan document that a future council would have to work through. If LIFT needs more money it should be based on a future reality and perhaps a different council.

Doug Clark thought they should go with Option 4. They already had an agreement with LIFT that the sales tax had to be returned in the first quarter of the year if it had not been spent. It already has to come back to us. There are clearly no projects so the taxes have to be returned to the taxing entities. The loan is to LIFT – not specific UR areas. Return the property taxes, the sales taxes and they keep the property tax increment from Columbine Square. If they get a project they can keep the sales tax. If we are going to change the sales tax agreement – it is revenue sharing and it will have to go to a vote for approval.

Peggy Cole read from the UR law that indicated that all debt had to be repaid before any increment could be returned to the taxing entities. The city should get back what they loaned before returning taxes to the taxing entities.

Bill Hopping said the loan documents do not specify how much to specific plans. There are certain fixed costs for LIFT and a significant portion goes to LIFT for the cost of doing business. He favored Option 2 or 3. He believed they needed to leave money in the hands of LIFT to sustain them.

Braaten said that Option 4 or 5 operated under the existing terms of the loan agreement. Option 1, 2 or 3 would require an amendment to the agreement and that the city has the right to amend the agreement.

Brinkman was concerned about the LIFT board – what actions can be taken to replenish the board. If this is something they need to be doing……

Braaten told council that the 6 month clock did not apply to this situation.

Mark Relph, acting City Manager, said there were three letters of resignation – LaDonna Jurgensen, Justin Hay and Craig O’Rourke. Gary Thompson will not renew. That leaves Kyle Schlachter, Jim Collins, and Ryan Tool.   After brief comments over the concern of the reduction in members of the LIFT Board there needed to be some action taken to get new members appointed. The council conducts interviews for board and commission appointments every February and that timeline was not going to work for LIFT appointments and the schedule is already heavy.

The UR law provides for vacancies saying that the mayor shall appoint members to fulfill terms of resigning members. The mayor shall then file with the clerk a certificate of the appointment and such certificate shall be conclusive evidence of the due and proper appointment of such commissioner.

All realized that there was not rush to come to a decision on the financial matters at this time.

Brinkman reminded councilmembers to provide her with any questions regarding the fire district conversation and she will take them with her to the fire district meetings. Beckman said he thought this was not a decision that should be made by the people involved – they needed a consultant to do the work and that could be a $500,000 contract.

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