City Council Regular and Special Meeting 3 April 2018 – South Metro Fire

City Council Regular Meeting.      3 April 2018.        Citizen Minutes – Karina Elrod was absent

Citizen Comments

Linda Knufinkepresented a comparison of the cost between South Metro and Littleton Fire based on a cost per call.  She used the CAFR info from each organization to make her comparisons.  The data shows that South Metro’s cost per call is $5,857.29 and Littleton’s cost per call is $1,777.47.  She did not see unifying with South Metro as a savings for the citizens of Littleton. (Her Power Point is available by clicking on this link  L Knufinke’s PP Fire Merger v3

As Knufinke was returning to her seat mayor Brinkman called her numbers into question.  You be the judge as to whether Knufinke’s numbers are accurate or not. 

Regular attendees of council meetings also wondered why Brinkman decided to respond.  According to her rules it is a violation of the Open Meetings Law for her or any member of council to respond to a citizen during the comment portion of the meeting.

Paul Bingham told the council that the agreement with South Metro Fire was one-sided with the City of Littleton doing all the paying and giving.  It gives the buildings, the land and the equipment to South Metro and the city will not get their equipment back.  Littleton is required to pay for an environmental assessment on stations that are no located within the city limits and will be required to pay for any remediation for Station 16 that is outside the city.   He asked council to table the agreement, as it needs work.

Gloria Shone said she had concerns with the merger – it is a tax increase.  If the voters reject the November ballot question an election will be held again at our expense.  Elections could be held in polling places; most of which will be fire stations, which could be intimidating.  The termination agreement is a sham – Littleton will not be able to get their equipment back.  The Agreement does not have any performance standards so there is no right for Littleton to terminate the Agreement if our expectations of service are not met.

Patrick Fitzgerald said he was addressing his comments to the voters.  He did not think city council listened to the citizens.  He thought council acted illegally by voting in a study session to negotiate with South Metro Fire and eliminate all other options. Council decided with one vote to give away the city owned fire department. Costs for fire will double with no improvement in services.  It is mere theater and a betrayal of citizens that this is a done deal.  Three of the four newly elected council members couldn’t wait to give the fire union what they paid for and we will never know how much illegal campaigning was done.  Citizens, please speak to council and show up in two weeks to let your thoughts be known.

Jeanie Erickson said she was watching council when the Nex Gen Advisory group was discussed and it sparked her interest.  This would be a group of 17 to 34 year olds appointed by council.  There were four dissenters among council members yet the mayor decided to move forward with a breakfast with the Nex Gen’ers.  Erickson said no one should have more access to the council than anyone else.  She asked council to return the four minutes for Citizen Comments and the scheduled ten minutes on the agenda.  Phil Cernanec removed these options arbitrarily and the 17 to 34 year olds to speak to council could use it.  She encouraged everyone to get involved – there are lots of ways to be involved. Segregating by age groups is not a good idea.

Don Bruns had a few questions protection.  His statement is included in full.

  1. It states Council’s direction is that, “(1) the inclusion in SMFR will maintain about the Pre Inclusion Agreement for firecurrent levels of service including emergency medical services.” However, the analysis only states “any additional costs incurred by the citizens should result in an improved level of service…”  Before considering approval of this resolution, rather than simply stating “should,” could it be determined whether levels of service will or will not be maintained—both with additional tax increases and without them?
  2. It also states Council directed, “(2) minimize disruption to citizens and employees.” But the analysis sidesteps this requirement and begs asking a two-fold question: First, why would Council want only to minimize disruption to citizens; and why in the first place would the proposed agreement have to disrupt service anyhow?
  3. Reviewing the basis for this agreement, the analyses evidently mix proverbial “apples and oranges by putting street maintenance and fire/emergency services in the same basket. Certainly both matters are part of the city’s overall budget considerations. But why are they combined here?  Being functionally unrelated, the admixture of funding for both as supportive rationale gives the distinct impression that true costs of the proposed agreement are being hidden.  It’s doubtful that’s what was intended.

The city’s finance director is very accomplished.  But to ordinary citizens, the combined discussion of Mill Levy rates and dollars involving both matters is unintelligible.  It gives the appearance that street maintenance is a significant reason for pursuing the SMFR agreement, however unlikely that may be. While the rising costs of street maintenance may well result from unrelenting continued approval increasingly urbanized growth and development, certainly they have nothing to do with fire and emergency service costs.

How then can citizens be expected to believe they are being dealt a straight deck of cards?  Can the proposal for inclusion of fire services with SMFR not stand on its own two feet? Where is the compelling rational for avoiding independent analysis of this proposal’s costs?

My intent is to disparage no one.  But from the first time I saw the two issues presented together, the true costs associated with each of these needs appeared clouded and unclear.  I hope this helps explain why at least some of us might be suspicious.

David Eberhardt– said he was new to Littleton and he just voted for the first time in Littleton and he has been reading and learning about where the funding had come from for some of the council candidates and it was a conflict of interest for those that were funded by the union and that bothers him.  He read David Gilbert’s article that this would cost him $10 more a month and he is not convinced it will be any different.  He did not see a citizen benefit and his interests were not being represented by council. He asked the council to back off and consider those that live here.  It is not right for the city to give away equipment that the citizens will continue to make payments on.

Pam Chadbourne said she was proud of the citizens that spoke – they represent the quality of the citizens in Littleton.  She told them they needed to listen and they did not have what they needed to make their decision.  She asked them to table their action.  Past councils have demanded bids for $60,000 contracts – please ask for more data.

On the Events Ordinance – she expressed concern about demonstrations. Chadbourne also agreed with Erickson 100% – restore the four minutes and ten minutes on the agenda.  She noted that it was the 50thanniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Carol Brzeczek made several points about the Pre-inclusion Agreement with South Metro Fire.

  1. The agreement was one-sided favoring South Metro
  2. If council had not compared the city’s agreement with the agreements with Highlands Ranch and Littleton Fire Protection District they needed to do so as there are inequities.
  3. If council were sincere in offsetting the new tax burden created by going to South Metro they would reduce our property tax mill levy to 0 rather than 2 mills.
  4. The agreement states council is willing to go back to the voters three times or more for approval when council’s own standard is that once a vote is taken the body will support the action and move on regardless of their personal views.Why doesn’t council extend that same expectation – if the voters say No,accept their decision and move on rather than asking them again and again to raise their taxes by 9.25 mills.
  5. If the City terminates the Agreement with South Metro all of the city’s fire assets will be forfeited to South Metro – what sense does that make?
  6. What risks are there for the city if South Metro fails to meet the standards called out in our contract with Lockheed Martin?She asked the council if they had seen an amendment to the contract with Lockheed.
  7. We have been told that going with South Metro will be cheaper – an economy of scale yet that is just not true – going with South Metro is a tax increase.

Frank Atwood talked about special interests and told council that they are beholden to the citizens and not their donors.  He thought Knufinke’s graphs were wonderfully explicit and damning.

Martin Bolt was questioning mayor Brinkman’s comment that council would be violating the open meetings law if council were to respond to citizens during the comment portion of the meeting. He, in all his experience with city government, had never seen a council sued because they responded to a citizen. He told council that by the time they get to a critical vote it is too late for citizens to influence the decision. Council has only heard one side of the story.  He did not like the increase in taxes and asked the council to stop this now.

Consent Agenda Items

a) Ordinance 13-2018 – An ordinance on first reading regarding the proposed Pre-Inclusion Agreement with South Metro Fire Rescue for fire and emergency medical services commencing 1/1/2019pulled by Cole

b) Ordinance 14-2018 – An ordinance on first reading establishing a Capital Projects Reserve Account should the voters of the City of Littleton approve inclusion into South Metro Fire Rescue for fire and emergency medical services.– pulled by Fey

c) Resolution 21-2018 – A resolution supporting an application by the city on behalf of Littleton Public Schools for an Arapahoe County Open Space grant for playground improvements at Field Elementary School

d) ID# 18-110 – Motion to confirm the appointment of Vincent Atencio as an associate municipal judge

e) ID# 18-117 – Confirmation of designation by the presiding municipal judge of the Lakewood Municipal Court for conflict of interest matters.

f) ID# 18-114 – Approval of the March 20, 2018 regular meeting minutes

g) ID# 18-122 – Motion to appoint Channing O’Dell to the board of directors of the Highline Business Improvement District

Items A and B were pulled.  Motion to approve c, d, e, f and g was approved 6/0.

A – An ordinance on first reading regarding the proposed Pre-Inclusion Agreement with South Metro Fire Rescue for fire and emergency medical services commencing 1/1/2019. Peggy Colepulled and noted a minor error in the date.  Attorney Kemp had already noticed and would make the correction.  Jerry Valdesasked the attorney about the $5,000 the city will pay.  Kemp said normally on the first reading, the purpose was to direct the publication and set the public hearing and he would prefer to respond to Valdes’ question in an email.  Valdessaid he wanted the answer now – in the past we have gotten answers at this time.  Kemp said the reason for the $5,000 – it is a standard designation of a capital expense.  Valdesasked if the Agreement is passed why would we want to give up our real estate – can’t we have a 20 year lease.  Kemp said if inclusion passes it is done.  Valdesasked if Littleton needed to give up our real estate –why couldn’t we lease to them?  Kemp said fire stations are specialized.  This is a South Metro model and it is consistent with protecting the citizens. We discussed a number of options and this is the one that I recommend for the long-term interest of Littleton from a legal standpoint.

Brinkman told council that is they have additional questions to submit them to the staff.  Mark Relph said that would allow staff to fine tune their presentation for the public hearing.

Carol Fey said there are so many big problems with this agreement that puts Littleton on the short end.  Brinkmantold Feythis was not the time for her to do this.  Feysaid she had the floor and Brinkmancalled her out.  Carol Fey made a motion to table the item to a study session and straighten out some of the problems at the next study session on 4/10.  Peggy Cole seconded.  Motion failed 2/4 with Cole and Fey approving.  The main motion to approve on first reading approved 5/1 with Fey dissenting.

B – An ordinance on first reading establishing a Capital Projects Reserve Account should the voters of the City of Littleton approve inclusion into South Metro Fire Rescue for fire and emergency medical services.  Motion made to approve – passed 6/0.


Study Session

Discussion on proposed special events ordinance

Kemp informed the council that Littleton is seeing an increase in the number of special events and the city needs a way to manage them.  The current code only provides for circuses and carnivals and even though staff has a way to handle special events it is not in the city’s code and should be.




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