City Council Regular Meeting – 4/17/2018 Fire Inclusion

City Council Regular Meeting.     Tuesday, April 17, 2018.               Citizen Minutes

Public Comment

Pat Dunahay asked for the city’s help with the signage code.  He represents the South Park Business District and some of the business owners would like to place signage on the corner or some sort of way finding signs installed.

Andrew Ehrnstein and is son Isaac spoke to the council about what make a good flag.  Isaac had designed a flag for Littleton using colors from the state flag that depicts a spur for our western heritage, the South Platte River for its importance to Littleton and our history and a train wheel representing light rail coming to Littleton in 1997.

Pam Chadbourne was upset and appalled at council’s lack of a balanced look at the homeless at the last council study session.  Council should always have a complete picture of an issue and an integrated approach to subjects.  For the homeless discussion she suggested council invite the homeless in to participate. She also mentioned the many organizations that provide services for the homeless but they were not mentioned.

Kent Bagley told council that protocols and standards of conduct were a critical for the organization.

Kay Watson commented on Debbie Brinkman maintaining order in council meetings.  People needed to look at the good things council is doing and they need to work together.

Consent Agenda Items

a) Ordinance 16-2018 – An ordinance on first reading deleting Title 4, Section 3 from the Building Regulations of the Municipal Code regarding sign code regulation and adding Title 10, Section 17 to the Zoning Code of the Municipal Code regarding sign code regulation

b) Ordinance 17-2018 –n an ordinance on first reading repealing Sections 3-3-1 to 3-3-7, pertaining to circuses and carnivals; and adding new Chapter 3 pertaining to establishing the standards for the issuance of a permit for special events and demonstrations in the city

c)  ID# 18-128 – Approval of the April 3, 2018 regular meeting minutes

Consent Agenda passed 7/0

General Business

  1. a) Ordinance 13-2018 – An ordinance on second reading regarding the proposed Pre-Inclusion Agreement with South Metro Fire Rescue for fire and emergency medical services commencing January 1, 2019

Mark Relph said the fire issue has been wrestled with for decades and the partnership has been difficult to sustain.  The Master Plan is not within the financial reach of the partnership and now the partnership is gone.  It was important for staff to have an answer my June.    Was the city diligent in negotiating with South Metro (SM)?  Many were involved for many months and they could add more details to the agreement if there was more time.  South Metro has tried to be consistent in their contracts with the partners but we are different – we are a city and not a district.  We have a deeper responsibility as the administration of the fire department – this is the cost and we are in a weak negotiating position.  Changes to the agreement are limited.  If we move to SM we won’t be spending the costs to provided fire services and we can devote a portion of the $7 million to a dedicated purpose for street maintenance. We wanted citizens to see our commitment to street maintenance.

Attorney Steve Kemp spoke about the inclusion election, which is a SK election – not the city’s. If the city were included we would turn over all of our assets to SM with the exception of Station 11, which is located at the city center.  There could be a better location for this station in the future.  According to the C.R.S any boundary change for SM would have to be filed wit the Court no later than July 1stand that deadline is past so the increase in property taxes for inclusion would not happen until January 2020.

Finance Director, Tiffany Hooten, said inclusion would net out to be a 4.588 mills increase.  Having to pay for services for the first year would result in using about $1.4 million from the reserves and this is not sustainable for more than 2 or 3 years.

Relph said he recommends approval – the timing is critical for the transition to take place. This is our only option that provides a level of service for the money.  This is a long-term solution that is financially and operationally viable and redirects some money from the General Fund to street maintenance.

Public Hearing

Mark Rogers – In favor

Joel Heinman – President of the Fire Union said they are proud of their fire history and the process has been difficult.  The heart of a fire fighter is service to the community.  He believes the move to SM will improve service greatly.  The increased resources will increase safety for everyone.

Doug Clark said the move is not an increase in service.  There are organizational differences that make delivery of services worse. Paramedics perform advanced life support (ALS).  Littleton has a paramedic on each fire truck and can perform ALS with the arrival of the first truck.  SM does not have a paramedic on each truck and 60% of the calls are medical emergencies. He displayed a chart of info that came from the fire department showing that only 2% of the calls are for fire and 90% of those fires are contained by the time the trucks arrive showing the importance of having ALS on each truck

Paul Bingham said he knows this is going to happen but suggested that the Agreement needs more work as there were some serious flaws.  He also appreciated the work of the city manager on this.

??? – favored the unification.  (Sorry just didn’t catch the name.)

Don & Cheryl Bruns said the city was backed into a corner.  He wondered why anyone would allow the transfer of our assets without payment and asked for council to include an equitable return for the assets as well as performance standards in the Agreement.

Chris Keely – full support.

Patrick Fitzgerald congratulated the council – it is full steam ahead in giving the fire union the results they bought and paid for.  The first council meeting after the election council decided not to consider any option other than SM.

Linda Knufinke said the Agreement is one-sided and flawed and also asked for a fair and equitable agreement.  She thought the public had been cut out of the decision and did not appreciate SM holding election after election until the voters say yes.  This is an assault on democracy.  She thought there should be spending limits on the election and “education” costs.  She also wanted to see measurable standards in the contract so their performance could be measured.

Bill Brown had a couple of questions regarding the ballot question.  He thought the condition of reducing the mill levy needed to have the word hereafter included after the year 2020.   What is the value of the assets being granted to SM District? And, in the future, will Littleton be evaluating salary levels of employees as smaller communities usually pay less  because the jobs are smaller.

Richard Champion – Columbine Valley – full support.

Bill Hopping said we were forced to do this – there were no options.  He thought it was a detriment to the city not to be able to meet behind closed doors in an executive session.  All SM had to do was tune in and watch council meetings to learn their position.  (Mr. Kemp and Mr. Relph said numerous times that there was no negotiation – SM said take it or leave it.)

Pam Chadbourne said this is the first time we have seen what the taxpayer will have to pay and that information should have been provided much earlier.  She did not believe that the stand-alone option was out of reach Why not try for 2 years.  Why can’t we negotiate for ALS?  The contract needs to be amended – it is not in the best interest of the city.

Kay Watson – to the firemen: you have our back and we have yours – in full support.

Frank Atwood – Littleton interests over special interests, elected people are beholden to residents and not donors.  He expressed confidence that they would represent the best interests of citizens and will amend the agreement if needed.

Joe Rice – representing Lockheed Martin was in favor.

Kal Murib representing the Littleton Business Chamber expressed their support.

Gloria Shone – Two weeks ago, our mayor stated that this vote only placed the fire merger issue on the ballot so the citizens could decide.  If only that were true!  The ballot issue only decides how & by whom the increased fire costs will be paid.  True, it’s the largest proposed property tax increase in Littleton history but only a small part of what you will vote on tonight.

The greater issue  – whether or not to irrevocably dismantle Littleton’s fire department, give South Metro Fire all of our fire assets – equipment, property & land – & contract with South Metro for Littleton’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services – will be decided by the 7 of you..

 She expressed her concern about Littleton taking on a long term contract that is economically unsustainable.   The contract has no escape clause leaving Littleton without protection of being able to resume fire services if needed in the future.  She wondered why performance standards & metrics were not included in the contract.  Littleton’s City Charter specifies  it is to maintain a fire department, complete with a fire chief & all the other trimmings.

This public hearing, the first time you are hearing formal input from your citizens, comes at the very end of the process, the very evening you plan cast a final vote.  She told council that they empowered to amend the proposal before them or they could postpone a final vote.

Carol Brzeczek asked council to amend the Agreement that would allow Littleton to keep their fire assets if they terminated the agreement.  She wondered if SM might involve LIFT into their litigation against the Parker Urban Renewal Authority.  She also told council that the Agreement was in violation of the city code that required Littleton to have a fire department and a fire chief.

Susan Thornton said we are here because previous councils have not treated the fire fighters nicely.

Chris Doud – full support

Stew Meagher – full support

Pat Driscoll began the council discussion by asking Chief Armstrong about running a paramedic on all calls.  Armstrong said SM uses a different model than Littleton and they are working through a staffing plan and they don’t know what it will look like in Littleton.  Station 19 only has an engine – we won’t see a paramedic on each engine as we do now.  Driscoll also wanted to know if the 2% of all calls were for fire was accurate.  Chief, in a convoluted way said that was pretty much the national standard.

Jerry Valdes asked about the equipment Littleton was losing.  Armstrong said we really aren’t losing any.  Valdes also asked about the city code.  Steve Kemp said he would be bringing a code amendment forward.

Kyle Schlachter asked Armstrong I t would be responsible to try a stand-alone model.  Armstrong said no.  Schlachter asked Hooten if the agreement was fiscally responsible and financially sound.  Hooten said 9.25 mills is the appropriate amount to pay SM.  Schlachter asked Kemp if Littleton would only receive the return of assets with the fire Authority  Kemp said yes – once we are in the district it is done The return of assets in only relevant with regard to the Authority.

Carol Fey to Kemp (she asked him to respond with a yes or a no).  Were there no performance standards in the contract – he said yes.  Will Littleton permanently give up assets? Yes.  How many elections can SM hold?  3.

Karina Elrod asked how Littleton would get assurance of a higher level of service?  Kemp said the city and SM would develop a plan to meet the standards.  And, SM will meet the current standards.  Elrod asked if we have a baseline.

Driscoll said they were negotiating from a position of weakness.

Relph addressed the condition of assets being returned to SM saying that the Agreement was written this way because of the political challenges in Littleton.  They wanted a commitment.  SM is making a big commitment by taking our staff and they want assurance that we will commitHe said that with the approval of the Agreement we are crossing a bridge and can’t come back.  The only question for the voters is how we will pay for it.  If inclusion does not pass we may have to reassess – they will not hold us hostage.

Brinkman asked about the UR issue – Kemp did not think is was a concern.

Schlachter moved to approve the Pre-Inclusion Agreement and Driscoll seconded.

Peggy Cole said she was not happy being backed up against a wall.

Elrod offered three amendments:

  • by amending Paragraph 2(d) after the word assets on Line 7 to add the following language: “In the event of termination without the inclusion of the City of Littleton into South Metro, the Parties agree to cooperate in good faith to provide such transfer and distribution of assets as set forth herein so as to allow each Party to individual resume responsibility for providing Fire Rescue Services within their jurisdictions in an efficient and timely manner”. Schlachter seconded and amendment passed 7/0.
  • amend section “H” for the sentence that reads “The city agrees that any of the former city employees transferred to South Metro may reapply for positions with the city with no loss in seniority or services…” by adding the word “available” after positions. Schlachter seconded and amendment passed 7-0.
  • by adding a new Paragraph 2(h) and renumbering the existing paragraphs to conform. 2(h) Right of First Refusal for Fire Station Properties. Following the Inclusion, in the event that the Fire Authority or South Metro District, whichever is then owner (“Fire Station Owner”), determines to sell Station 12 or 9, the City shall have first right of refusal to purchase back the Fire Station at fair market value(“Right of First Refusal”). Upon a determination by the Fire Station Owner to sell any of these Fire Stations, it shall provide written notice to the City. Within thirty (30) days of the date of the written notice that it wishes to exercise the Right of First Refusal, or the Fire Station Owner shall have the right to sell the property to any third-party purchaser. Within thirty (30) days of the City providing notice that it wishes to exercise the Right of First Refusal, the fair market value shall be determined by agreement of the City and the Fire Station Owner. If the Parties cannot agree to the fair market value, it shall be determined by an MAI appraiser jointly selected by the Parties. If the Parties cannot agree on the appraiser, they shall each select an appraiser to singularly conduct the appraisal of the property and determine the fair market value. Solely the City shall pay the cost of any appraisal. This Right of First Refusal shall terminate ten (10) years after the execution of this Agreement and shall not apply to any offer to purchase or sale of a Fire Station property more than ten (10) years after the date of this agreement.

Driscoll seconded. Cole asked why would they buy back as opposed to just having the land returned?  Kemp said the reason they will have ownership at that time.  Cole said if we give them the land why can’t they give it back?

Brinkman said she could not support this amendment – we are only talking about two stations that are fairly strategically located.  Her concern was the city would then be holding a piece of land – they what do we do with it?

Schlachter said this would not mandate the purchase but only give Littleton the opportunity.  Valdes said he did not like having to buy it at a fair market value.

Amendment passed 5/2 with Brinkman and Cole dissenting.

Fey asked Kemp if the accreditation was a requirement of the contract – he said no.  Fey then moved to amend the Agreement by adding current Littleton fire and medical response times as a baseline for measuring South Metro’s performance. The motion died for lack of a second.

Main motion passed 6/1 with Fey dissenting.

  1. b) Ordinance 14-2018 – An ordinance on second 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.

This ordinance will only go into effect if inclusion is successful.

The purpose of the ordinance is to create a Capital Improvement account where some of the money that was used to pay for Littleton fire will be diverted into this new account and earmarked for road and street maintenance.

Public Hearing

Carol Brzeczek noted two items on the list of how the money could be spent.  The first, administrative costs.  She would prefer to see all the money spent on actual maintenance rather than staff expenses.  How does the telecommunication piece fit in with road maintenance?  She was also concerned about the fact that this council may or may not be sitting if and when the voters approve inclusion. There are no assurances that this ordinance won’t be turned over or ignored by future councils.  Elrod asked Kemp how they make the commitment stronger.  Kemp said there isn’t a way – you have stated publically that this is what you want to do. There will be a political cost for a future council if undone.

Keith Reister, Public Works, explained that the admin costs are to cover the extra personnel Littleton will have to bring on in order to deliver – we don’t have the staff to do this work.

Relph assured council that the admin and design costs would be kept to a minimum.  Elrod moved and Driscoll seconded.  Motion passed 7/0.