Town board postpones town administrator's contract renewal

Trustees fought through internal tension at the April 28 trustee meeting with a decision to postpone renewal of the Town Administrator Larry Lorentzen’s contract until December 1.

Lorentzen began working for the town in October 2000. Per his renewal request letter in the board packet, his current salary is $103,126, which includes a two percent cost of living allowance. He’s asking for $105,000 in the new contract, an increase of 1.8 percent.

Mayor Jack Brinkhoff and Town Attorney Brad March explained that the contract renewal was always done during the first meeting in April and approval had usually occurred without a hitch. However, the contract was not discussed during the first meeting in April. Also, Trustees Tim Singewald and Matt Michel expressed reservations on approving the renewal on the spot, citing concerns with not completely understanding the process.

“It’s the same contract we’ve given Larry for forever,” said March.

But that didn’t sway either of the trustees. Rather than voting to renew, the board voted to extend Lorentzen’s contract by one month, allowing a termination date of Dec. 1, 2015, rather than Oct. 1, 2015. In the instance that the board decides not to renew Lorentzen’s contract, the extension will allow a six-month courtesy notice.

Trustees Singewald and Travis Harless explained that as new board members they wanted to understand the process better and help rid the perception that trustees “automatically” and “blindly” approve such matters.

“We want citizens to know we took time to go over it,” Harless said.

Waiting for the town to review matters is something Pastor Rick Carlson is familiar with handling. He approached the board during the open forum portion of the meeting to request assistance with bills that his church incurred as the result of a flood.

Last September, the church basement was covered with six inches of raw sewage. Following a consultation with a local plumbing company, it was determined the town’s drains were most likely the cause for the flooding. When Carlson approached the town for help following the spill, he claims town employees did not respond to his request, which resulted in additional damage.

Carlson reached out to Lorentzen, who helped the church with the drainage issues. After everything was cleaned up, the church was handed a bill that the insurance company denied because negligence on behalf of the town’s employees could not be proven.

“We just wanted to come and let you know and ask you to see if there is something you would like to do to help us with that. We do a lot of good for this town, and we will continue to do that,” Carlson said.

March told the trustees that the “insurance company may not know all the facts” and explained that if the town did not clean out the drains, then the town is liable. The flip side to the coin is that if the town did have a normal maintenance schedule, flooding is something that happens in sewers and the town has governmental immunity, he said.

In any case, March promised to review the situation with Utilities Superintendent Mike Bean.

“If the town did something wrong, that’s what insurance covers,” March said.

Wendy DuBord, Wellington Main Street Program director, asked for help replacing the flower pots in the downtown right-of-way. She asked that the town connect the flower pots to the town’s landscape watering system since her attempts to find volunteers to regularly water the plants was unsuccessful.

She also asked that the town spare some manpower to help hang the banners that will be placed on poles and need to be changed seasonally.

“I am not acknowledging this isn’t without impact on the city staff,” DuBord said. “It’s a partnership with Main Street, businesses and towns.”

The branding initiative is budgeted at $7,200, a majority of which DuBord offset with volunteers and sponsors. Trustee Ashley Macdonald tried to drill down how many hours and resources town employees would need to commit to such projects.

She also questioned whether or not the town had helped enough and cited the assistance provided to the parking lot project.

Ultimately, Macdonald suggested the committee stagger the projects and do them one at a time, such as rolling out the flower pots in 2015 while waiting until 2016 to implement the banners.

Singewald stepped in and reminded Macdonald that both projects had been previously approved.

“You are coming in with community support, downtown development support and chamber support. You are doing a project of $7,500 and asking the town for $1,500. It looks like a good quality program and falls right in line with the guidelines,” Singewald said to DuBord.

When it came time to vote, Macdonald was the only trustee who voted “No” to DuBord’s request.

The board awarded the I-25 Pedestrian Crossing Construction Project to Dietzler Construction Corporation, which submitted the low bid at $368,323.

The request for proposals to complete the Garfield Storm Sewer Design was awarded to JVA, which had the low bid of $22,500. The other contenders were Telesto Solutions Inc. at $29,691, Stantec at $35,123, and TST at $16,500 for up-front work.

The trustees also appointed Nickolas Heimann, a graduate student at Colorado State University, to the Parks Advisory Board. According to Trustee Macdonald, Heimann is an avid cycling fan and has been instrumental in bringing awareness to safety and bike lanes in Fort Collins. He will serve a three-year term, which expires May 1, 2018.

Lastly, the board reviewed the middle school appraisal requests. The town is exploring the possibility of acquiring the school from the Poudre School District after a new middle/high school is built. March said he contacted four companies and Don Shannon, with Shannon & Associates Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants, offered to do the appraisal at $4,000. The estimate was significantly under budget, which was estimated at $10,000 at the April 14 meeting. The board voted to proceed with the appraisal.

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