City Council Study Session 6.13.2017 – Fire Unification, Smart City and Annual Appropriation

City Council Study Session                   13 June 2017               Citizen Minutes

17-184 Review consideration of the Annual Appropriation Bill for fiscal year Jan. 2017-Dec. 2017.  Tiffany Hooten, Finance Director, recommended that the General Fund be increased by $346,200 for the following.

$134,200 – the new city attorney is not licensed to practice in Colorado and it will take up to nine months for him to be credentialed and the extra funds will pay for the continuation of our contract attorney.

$49,000 – In order to manage the existing roof inspection workload the city would like to contract out inspections to a private firm.

$75,000 – Additional help is needed in the public works department to keep up with the influx of new development applications in the city.

$28,000 – To pay for consultant helping the community development and public works departments to manage operations and guidance on a succession plan.  Several employees will be retiring over the next year leaving with a wealth of knowledge and experience.  This transition needs to be planned.

$60,000 – City Manager wants to work with the Leadership team “in improving organizational focus and alignment of goals, managing the recent change in city-wide management, communication, and leadership effectiveness with all department directors.”

The change, if approved, would reduce the ending fund balance by $346,200.

Conservation Trust Fund – $86,000 – The city can capitalize on $45,165 rebates through Xcel Energy by replacing several light fixtures at the library.  The energy savings will be between 40 and 60 percent.  Total cost is $130,890 – after rebates $86,000.  The increase would reduce the ending fund balance from $244,090 to $158,090.

Hooten told the council rather than waiting until the end of the year for these types of changes to the budget she would be bringing them more often.

ID#17-166 Draft housing study by BBC Research and Consulting. (2017 6.13.2017 Littleton Housing Study Draft Report to read the entire report)

The study is available by clicking the link above if you would like to read it.  It is very comprehensive covering housing stock, income levels, where Littleton residents work, housing availability for income types, reasons why people live in Littleton and much more.  Below is a summary of the focus group findings.

Service Providers Real Estate Pros Sunshine
Affordability is a primary concern Ranches/single level du-and tri-plexes (paired ranches) and starters Low density preferences
Housing for people with disabilities also a concern Downsize options would free up family homes Value Littleton culture and green space
Social/community impacts of pricing out Need more $280K-$400K homes Perceptions that city accommodates developers over design and zoning standards and citizen preference
NIMBYism (LIHTC) Young couples/families Need for patio homes and/or single story down-size options
Need 2 bedroom senior units, small attached casitas and multi generational housing products.  Housing to accommodate multi generations under one roof. Perceive Littleton to be difficult for developers (outdated zoning, unpredictable prcess, etc.) Address regional issues – housing & transportation – traffic impacts on Littleton and the need for a transportation plan
Infill opportunities and urban renewal
Allow diverse stock (example Steeplechase development with condos and townhomes )

Housing trends – Littleton currently has a well-balanced and relatively diverse housing stock.  Home prices have increased sharply in Littleton but also in the metro area.  Falling interest rates have allowed buyers to increase their buying power.  The percentage of income required to pay rent or a mortgage has increased between 1999 and 2015.  Renters in Littleton have lost their purchasing power as rents have increased at a faster rate than income.

Next steps will be what to do about the findings.

ID# 17-189 Issues related to the proposal for Fire Unification 

Leonard and Mike, consultants from Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) were hired to assist in the evaluation of a proposal to merge our fire department with South Metro.  (The firm was hired with much praise from the fire department partners and city staff.  They spent time interviewing each council member about the process.  This is the first time that they have attended a public meeting on the subject.  Keep in mind that there are two issues being considered – moving our fire dispatch (not police) to South Metro and merging our three member fire partnership with South Metro.  The fire partners are Highlands Ranch Metropolitan District, Littleton Fire Protection District and the city of Littleton’s Fire Department.  The taxpayers of the two districts pay for fire protection and emergency services through a mill levy assessed on their property while the residents of Littleton do not. Fire and emergency services are provided by the General Fund in the city.  This discussion is only about the unification and does not include the dispatch services.)

Mike said it is a very complex and difficult project and a very important decision.  They reviewed the total package and came up with a series of questions.

1.  Financial costs

2.  Governance – level of control and input into services

3.  Measurement process to evaluate service levels (response times, dispatch time etc)

4.  Asset management – you want assurances that the public assets are handled properly.

Key driver  –  is there an issue with the contract and to make sure the agreement addresses those services for the citizens.

Bruce Beckman said he appreciates the assistance and saw a difference in the way the questions were framed for the city as compared to the two partners.  Beckman said he did not think they (council) knew what the problem was.

Mike pointed out a very diverse approach to this by the partners and Littleton.  Littleton has a concise service area that is almost built out which is much different than the sprawling areas covered by the two districts.  It is difficult to have some unity on how the three approach the problem.

Debbie Brinkman said this was about sustainability.  Would we continue to support fire services through property taxes or through a mill levy?

Mike said it was almost counter intuitive that the city can align your thoughts apart from from the partners.  Unification would be a cure all if everyone looked at it the same way.

Doug Clark said if we do not know what we want or what we want to achieve – how do we evaluate the proposal?  We are almost a year into this and we haven’t defined the reason for unification.

Several questions were asked like –

are the dispatch costs included in the figures

who pays to relocate fire stations

if we are told one of our stations has to move, who pays for the move

are we charged maintenance fees on leased equipment

Mike said it would all be negotiable and they saw a number of voids in the proposal where items were not addressed.  Clark stated again – since we don’t have a reason to do this……and Leonard said it was the most critical question for them.  Are you trying to save money?  There are other alternatives.  Finances are driving the partners but why would you do this?  Mark Relph said they were trying to define the problem before getting too far into this.

Debbie Brinkman referred to the partnership as a three legged stool and that there have always been issues that have never been resolved.  South Metro’s resources will help to sustain them into the future.

Fire Chief Armstrong said there was no better solution for the partners – the So Metro mill levy is lower than theirs.  Do we (Littleton) have a problem today – no!  Could we tomorrow – yes!  Whether unification solves the problem he did not know.  There is a response time problem in Highlands Ranch and Littleton Fire Protection District that has a finance problem.

Brinkman said we have a problem because the partners have a problem.  If the district goes we lose the three legged stool.  Clark said if that is the issue then redraft the proposal and figure out what to do if we lose a partner.

Bill Hopping asked if there was an alternative that would keep the partnership together?  Chief said there were a variety of ways to accomplish this but the partners are so engrained in how things have been done in the past.  Everyone likes our system but outside forces influence the costs.  There are probably 100s of ways to frame sharing capital costs.

Jerry Valdes asked if Littleton went on its own would there be a transfer of assets – a station in Littleton that serves Highlands Ranch?  Chief said we own some stations and we would have to buy out the partners for the ones we do not own.  He said the question would then become – do we have the resources to meet our response times?

Clark said they needed specific goals they are trying to achieve, the costs of implementing the Master Plan and their alternatives.  Hopping agreed – we don’t have anything in writing and the consultant’s questions are good.  Brinkman said they need answers other than it is negotiable.

Beckman said we have a 30 year partnership.  One partner says they are broke.  Clients in the south have a different relationship and So Metro sees us as a weak point and one wants the best deal and we are in the middle.  It is the only new car in the driveway and there are lots of new cars but our only choice is the one in the driveway.  We don’t know if this is a good deal for us or not.  That’s our struggle.  Clark is right – we didn’t have time to formulate a problem.  It has just been explained to us as a solution.

Leonard said the system that we have now was cobbled together – it is not how to do this.  Most regions  are one department – ownership of facilities remain with one entity.  A fix requires a change in the dynamics.

Mike asked who the Master Plan is for – the exiting district?  If you are committed to the Master Plan what changes are needed and what is the methodology to fund that?  Is the partnership on the same wave length on unification?  You need to bring the partners together to see if a partnership is still viable.  The partnership is the problem.

Relph said there was a partnership meeting that morning that was very positive and he thought there’s interest in seeing what South Metro is like.

Brinkman said they are now having open and honest conversations and there is mutual pride but it is partnership.  There are two big issues – cost and level of service.  They are at different places and they contract with us.  They hate coming to city council for budget and it will always be an issue.  There is some skepticism about South Metro’s system – it really isn’t like ours – is it better?  She thought that Highlands Ranch wants to keep the partnership as it is.

Chief said he agreed with Brinkman.  He said way back when the review committee framed the problem it was never brought to the city.  The group decided to entertain the proposal from South Metro and look at alternatives if needed.  He said South Metro needs to respond to the questions and then continue the process.  We may have to look at going it alone or a two member partnership but we need to finish the process with South Metro.

Leonard said they first needed to get the proposal as narrowly defined as they could.  The two districts are going to have to transfer their mill levy and that’s huge hurdle (has to be approved by the voters) – it will be a hard sell. Littleton has the easiest opportunity to operate independently – the other two situations are complicated.

Relph will draft a problem statement.  Chief said he agreed with Clark – we need to define what we want and give it to South Metro.

Brinkman asked about governance – Mike told her that the tenants of the agreement will be your governance and if they are not compliant then there should be secondary actions.  You may not have a vote in governance so you have to have a way for compliance.

Leonard said they needed to identify their performance measurements and they needed to be cautious about setting realistic standards.

Beckman asked what now and Clark said a written statement to define what we want to get is needed before we tell South Metro what we want.  It should come back to council and then the next step.  Relph said he was comfortable drafting the problem statement and it could be done in short order.  He asked for more detailed comments in writing from each council person.

ID# 17-175 Ken Price, Information Services Director, provided a very interesting presentation on technology smart cities.  This would include “economic restructuring, adapting tot he move to online retail and entertainment, climate change, aging demographics, urban population and pressures public finances.”

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One Response

  1. Thank you for posting this detailed (but still relatively brief) summary of the Littleton City Council’s Study Session. It beats the heck out of watching a couple hours of meeting video!!!

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