City Council Meeting – 7 March 2017

City Council Meeting – Regular Meeting and Study SessionCitizen Minutes 7 March 2017

Public Comment

Ms. Fay asked the council to cut off merger talks with the Cunningham Fire District until they do right by their customers.

Bruce Myers who owns an office building in Littleton expressed his concern about how the citizen patrol responded to the graffiti painted on the side of his building. Mark Relph, acting city manager, said he had spoken to Mr. Myers and they area having discussions with staff – we have lessons to learn and they are being dealt with internally.

Frank Atwood thanked the council for his appointment to the Election Commission and for using approval voting in making their selections.

Carol Brzeczek expressed her concern that, based on council’s discussion while making their board and commission appointments, certain candidates had lived in Littleton less than a year which would disqualify them to run for city council. If residents living in Littleton less than a year were being appointed to quasi-judicial boards she thought perhaps the council should consider residency requirements for those boards. She also thanked Mayor Bruce Beckman for working with her in order to make the appointments to the Urban Renewal Board in compliance with the law. She appreciated him taking the issue serious enough to investigate.

Consent Agenda

Resolution authorizing the approval of the 2016 Arapahoe County Community Development Block Grant Program Subgrantee Agreement for the Littleton Sidewalk Improvements Project. Passed 7/0

Approval of the February 21, 2017 regular meeting minutes – Passed 7/0! The City Clerk was thrilled – it was the first time since November 2015 that the minutes passed on a 7/0 vote. Up until now a video recording constituted minutes and councilman Doug Clark, out of principal, never voted to approve a video recording. He worked to get the written journal submitted as the official minutes.

General Business

Motion to approve authority, board and commission appointments.   There were a couple of issues – a current member of the South Metro Housing Options board had become a city employee and needed to be removed and replaced. It was decided that they would open the process and interview for her replacement.

Clark asked for a future discussion about residency requirements and limiting the number of boards an individual can be appointed to to one.

Beckman informed the council that the LIFT board appointments were for five-year terms as defined in the UR law. And, the URA was established in 1981 with staggered terms as required by the law but something happened and the terms changed. He and the clerk looked at the terms of all LIFT members and have tried to give everyone five-year terms and keep the staggered terms as required by law. He also told council that the LIFT terms began in January and not April. This was an opportunity to “fix” and get LIFT back on track.

Debbie Brinkman moved to accept all board and commission appointments other than LIFT. Phil Cernanec seconded and motion passed 7/0.

Brinkman moved to approve the LIFT appointments. Jerry Valdes seconded and motion passed 7/0. Terms are Seiler 2018, Elrod 2019, Brzeczek 2021, Millar 2022, and Henderson 2022.

There will not be a council meeting next week – March 14.

Study Session

City Attorney Hiring Process – The discussion was about the “meet and greet” and the interview groups. The meet and greet for the city manager applicants was awkward and needed improvement. Rather than have a citizen panel they preferred to have past chairs of the boards and commissions participate in a panel to interview candidates. Another change, instead of council meeting with the entire staff panel for input only two members of council would meet with the groups eliminating the requirement for an open meeting. They were disappointed with what was written in the Littleton Independent on the city manager process.

Anton Collins Mitchell LLP Audit Planning Communication – Every year the city has to have their books audited and this is the annual visit from the auditor. This is the last year Anton Collins Mitchell can audit as the law only allows us to use the same auditor for 5 years. Randy Watkins told the council that they wanted to hear from council about their needs in the audit process. Clark was interested in learning how violations found were reported. Watkins said it would depend on the severity of the violation. They would start by going to management and if the violation is significant to council. Clark wanted to know what a significant error would be. Watkins said there are “opinion” levels and one test they do is – does the error cause someone reading the document to change their minds.   It is a judgment – would we want to see it in the newspaper?

Clark said he has been elected to oversee the finances of the city for the citizens and he did not have a comfort level that the auditor will provide the council with those errors. He said the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) does not help council members to do their job – it does not match the budget and some transfers are difficult if not impossible to track.

Watkins understood Clark’s frustration and told him that their audit was not designed to detect fraud. They statistically test transactions in different financial areas of the CAFR to get a 95% confidence level that the rest are correct. Their audit procedures are following audit standards.

Beckman said that a few years ago there was fraud going on and they hired a forensic auditor to investigate. Watkins said a whistle blower is the most effective tool – not the auditor. If they happened to stumble on fraud they will follow through.

Littleton Fire Rescue Dispatch Services Discussion – Chief Armstrong told council that they have a management problem in dispatch. They were having trouble hiring and retaining dispatchers. Some loss was due to burnout but other losses were to other communities that pay more. He was before council to ask council to contract with South Metro for dispatch services for less cost and better service. He had already proposed the idea to Littleton Fire Protection District, Cunningham and Highlands Ranch and they approve.

Peggy Cole asked if we paid our dispatchers more would there be less turnover? Cernanec said different fire groups have different personalities and procedures for responding to calls – how do we get our personality into the transfer of dispatch. The Chief told council that the change should be seamless and the other partners already know how we respond.

Clark said it was a management issue – why can’t we keep dispatchers? If pay is the problem then we have a problem with the pay surveys that are done. He had been through a consolidation before and it was not pretty. It was with South Metro and after spending $500,000 and working on agreements South Metro backed out to contract with Douglas County. And they have their problems – they misappropriated $9,000,000 of Homeland money for their headquarters and got in trouble with the Feds. Clark was having a hard time with the “math” – they spend less and pay more? He said he had no reason to think South Metro had changed their culture. Clark questioned if they needed a new Chief that could manage the job.

Valdes asked if moving the fire dispatchers would free up space in the building allowing growing space for the police dispatchers? Answer, yes.

Mark Relph told council that they have struggled in public works for front line staff – the pay range is low making it difficult to attract good candidates.

Brinkman appreciated the Chief bringing the matter to them. The problem has been known for years. Phil Cernanec wanted to know if there was an escape clause so they could back out at any time.

Beckman asked if the problem could be fixed. What would it take to fix it? He acknowledged that the space and environment is bad and can’t be fixed. Something has to happen. The capital costs in the dispatch center have to be calculated in. Any change needs to be equal or cost less and service equal or better. Chief said the equipment could be transferred.

Relph said if they are going down this path it is hard to turn back. He has worked in cities where they contracted out everything and he does not have a problem with contracting. He appreciated the council wanting to address the pay – the financial impact goes beyond dispatch.

Brinkman saw this as a way to save money…our sales tax collection is flat. Clark said the 2015 sales tax collection was up 8%, which was not flat.

Subdivision Exemption

To refresh – the subdivision exemption code states that a single lot can be divided into not more than two lots as long as other requirements are met (dealing with water and sewer service among others). This code has been used to combine parcels and to erase lot lines with the result being a by pass of a public plat or replat process. This code was used to approve The Grove where they combined parcels to make one and has been a point of contention that it was used improperly because the code says it is to divided not combine.

Jocelyn Mills, Community Development Director, offered proposed changes that include:

Amending the title to “Administrative Plat or Replat for Two or Less Lots

Specifyingwith clear verbiage and language that this chapter of the code can be used to:

Divide one lot into two

Amend or move a lot line between two lots

Reassemble multiple lots into one or two lots

Create a plat correction section to correct misspellings and other minor corrections on recorded plats.

Before Mills could really get into her presentation Cernanec expressed, rather emphatically, that he thought they were going to look at all of zoning – is this a different approach? How does this relate to the overall update?

Mills told him it was not a replacement but this was a priority item for the workshop on April 28th and she was there to provide a “trailer” of what is to come. Cernanec thought this was a piece meal approach. Relph said it was him that was changing the approach – they needed to deal with the subdivision exemption and the administrative process now. It cannot wait because of the work in front of them – there are about 7 or 8 subdivision exemptions now and they are trying to find a path forward.

Valdes said he was OK and that they were finally making progress – one bite of the elephant. Clark said the subdivision exemption is a separate chapter and has resulted in some awful projects in Littleton and if they don’t deal with updating the subdivision exemption code this will continue and there is no recourse for council or the citizens.

Ken Fellman, acting city attorney, said there is no way to bring the entire code update in one piece.

Beckman clarified the current process. Any subdivision of 11 or more lots is a Major Subdivision and requires the Planning Commission and City Council approval.

Any subdivision 10 or fewer is a Minor Subdivision and only requires council approval.

In 1959 the Planning Commission was formed and a Planning Department in 1967. In 1979 the Subdivision Exemption was adopted. The legal advice has been that the subdivision exemption can work for lot line adjustments and reassemblage of multiple lots into one. Relph said these are minor changes in the scheme of things. Cole said minor might be minor in size but can have a major impact on an area.

Clark said Cole was right – significant implications to combining lots and moving lot lines – it does impact what is built in neighborhoods. The only difference between a minor subdivision and a subdivision exemption is that it goes to council. He suggested just eliminating the chapter. If the changes were truly minor it would not take that much time to get council approval and if the changes are significant it should take more time. He said there is a problem taking significant changes out of the public process particularly when citizens were not allowed to appeal a decision. Correcting spelling mistakes should not have to go to council but moving a lot line should.

Bill Hopping said they needed a way to process administrative changes that don’t impact the town.

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