At the Feb. 10 Wellington Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Tim Singewald pressed for more transparency between the Boxelder Stormwater Authority and its governmental membership.
The trustee packet for the board meeting showed a special board meeting that took place Feb. 2. In attendance were Trustee Singewald, Trustee Travis Harless, Trustee Ashley Macdonald and Mayor Jack Brinkhoff. Also present were Alisa Darrow, assistant town administrator, and Cynthia Sullivan, deputy clerk. There are no minutes or a summary explaining what was discussed, which Singewald claimed should be shared.
“It covered a lot of stuff, a lot of points, a lot of issues, but we don’t have any record,” Singewald said. “I want to make sure we don’t lose that recording.”
Singewald pressed to broadcast the meeting via the town website, which Town Attorney Brad March said could be done. There were technical aspects, such as storage capabilities, that would need to be evaluated, but Sullivan said she would work on getting the recording uploaded. In the meantime, she said the public could submit a written request along with $5 to have the recording burned to a compact disc.
As he has in the past, Singewald expressed concern for what he says are Boxelder accounting discrepancies and lack of response to produce a pro forma — a document that would project the authority’s future expenses and income. At the Jan. 27 board meeting, Singewald requested that legal counsel be retained to help push for answers. He also requested a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement, along with the town’s legal and financial liability.
While personally researching his concerns with costs and agreement details, Singewald said he found policies outlined in the IGA which designated members as the highest level of authority. The document also said that in order to change, modify or rescind any part of the agreement, a unanimous vote of all members was required. He used that as the basis to question how projects were allowed to exceed budget without a vote from all members.
Singewald tried to share a PowerPoint presentation with the group which outlined his findings. He was unable to do so as a result of technical difficulties.
Singewald’s presentation, emailed to the Wellington Weekly, cited information contained in the Larimer County Master Plan document, which outlined initial budget estimates. Singewald explained that when members entered in to the IGA, the estimate for all four projects was $12.5 million. The budget allocated $4 million for Clark Reservoir, $6.1 million for the Edson Detention Pond, $1.1 million for Middle Boxelder Creek, and $1.3 million for the Larimer and Weld Canal Crossing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pay $3 million, leaving $9.5 million to be shared between the members, he said.
As Singewald began to explore the budget issues further, he learned that some of the estimates have changed. Specifically the Clark Lake project, which increased to $6.2 million and the Edson Reservoir Project which decreased to $5.1 million. Based on current costs, the budget increased to $13.7 million, which exceeded the initial budget estimate by $1.2 million dollars. Per the agreement, Wellington is responsible for paying 30 percent of the costs that go over budget.
Singewald said that his understanding of Boxelder members being the highest level of authority and their need to approve any modifications would have required a vote with a unanimous decision. Singewald told trustees that when he approached Boxelder President Ken Sampley, he was told that his understanding of the agreement was incorrect.
“The way these guys are going over budget bothers me,” Singewald said, asking for clarification on when an amendment and a vote are required.
Singewald told the board that he spoke with legal counsel and received a $1,300 bill. The board then discussed possible miscommunication at the Jan. 27 meeting, questioning whether Singewald should have retained council or should have first shopped for quotes. Singewald was instructed that the board would need to approve whomever he chose to hire. Following approval from the board, the town would then hire counsel.
Singewald was not the only one questioning Boxelder’s decisions.
James Day approached the board seeking an extension to the possession hearing for his family’s land, which will be used as part of a runoff detention area proposed by Boxelder in an effort to mitigate future flood damage to Wellington and other areas in unincorporated Larimer County.
The possession hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24, and is a process that involves the authority using eminent domain to acquire the northwest parcel of land owned by Day’s family. The land is situated between Larimer County Road 52 and 54.
When the land acquisition happens, Day said his family will lose 80-acres of land, 70-acres of which are irrigated. They will subsequently lose all shares of the Big Thompson River they currently own, since the shares are tied to a specified amount of property. He will no longer have access to the $35,000 bridge he built. Topsoil will need to be relocated. He will be forced to provide estimates of costs to pump water from either above or below the dam. And he will lose the ability to farm and mow.
“This isn’t fair,” Day said to the trustees. “Nobody’s getting protected. People downstream are going to get a lot of good ground. People upstream don’t get anything.”
Day’s family has roots in Colorado that span nearly 100 years. Day said the best option would be to keep his family’s farm. Since that isn’t going to happen, he wants fair compensation for what will be lost.
“There are costs to the authority that haven’t been addressed,” Day said.
And while Boxelder continues to be questioned on accounting and budget issues, not all of Wellington’s projects are over budget.
Preston Randall, project manager with Hydro Construction, presented a slideshow chronicling the company’s progress on the Wellington Wastewater Treatment Plant. The new addition, which is expected to be completed in 2016, will increase the storage capacity by .45 million gallons for a total capacity of .90 million gallons. With an initial construction cost projection of $4,389,014, the new project is coming in under budget at $4,187,014. The savings of $202,000 will be used to comply with EPA regulations in the coming years, Randall said.
At last month’s meeting, trustees agreed to revisit water tap fees for multi-family units. Though the board did approve a reduction in the fee, the trustees wanted to compare prices of taps for neighboring towns that mirrored Wellington in size and population. Due to Trustee Matt Michel’s absence, a motion to revisit the multi-family water tap fees was postponed. The town is still awaiting information from Frederick and Berthoud regarding their tap fees.
Resident Lou Kinzli addressed the board encouraging lower tap fees for multiplex units. He says multi-family units use about 30 to 40 percent less water than a single family unit and should receive a comparable savings.
“Those multi-families (units) will be more affordable to the working class. If they like Wellington, they will stay here and buy homes. It’s a win-win situation for the town,” he said.
The Main Street Project is still waiting for their IRS letter establishing their non-profit status. As a result, several grants pending for projects such as Centennial Park’s Conceptual Signage Plan with the University of Colorado Denver, historical buildings, and public art need to be funneled through either the town, the Chamber, or other non-profit entities.
Trustees also appointed the initial Board of Directors for the Friends of Wellington Parks. The new board will include Lonnie Brockman, Angie Billington, Aimee Mohr and Jake Reynolds, all of whom will be appointed for the first two terms until 2016, with Aimee’s term ending in 2017.
Before adjourning for the evening Singewald revisited the idea of having Wellington branch off and start their own school district. He spoke about Warren Tech, a school in Lakewood that focuses on preparing students for the workplace, and highlighted that the students recently “broke” state ACT scores.
Singewald said that Bob Schaffer, principal at Liberty Commons School in Fort Collins, would support Wellington in their efforts to explore a charter school.
No decision to actively pursue the offer was made.