By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
The Lyons Board of Trustees (BOT) held their first meeting in their new digs (the library of the Lyons Elementary School) on Monday night (September 23). In addition to the Mayor and all six Trustees, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, Clerk Deb Anthony, Finance Director Tony Cavalier, Engineer Jim Blankenship, Attorney Tim Cox, and Intern-Extraordinaire Jeremy Matsen were present. Also in the
audience were Sgt. Kevin Parker of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, recently appointed Boulder County Disaster Recovery Manager Gary Sanfacon, Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Director Reeves Brown, Regional Manager Don Sandoval, his aide Chantal Unfug, Ed Kean (who was recently brought on board to act as liaison between the Town and assessment/recovery crews), and a few Lyons residents. All in all, a room full of heavy hitters!
During audience business, Lyons resident David Chilson asked if it was true that the gas would be ready to go on Tuesday. No, was the answer. It was explained that the current level of the Lyons Fire Protection District’s fire fighting capacity consisted of two pumper trucks with water. Period. In the event the gas was to be turned on, and a fire was to break out in one of the neighborhoods, Lyons could potentially suffer a secondary catastrophe. Betsy Burton of the Lyons Farmette announced that the Hygiene Feed Store had free live stock, cat, and dog food at their store for Lyons residents for as long as it lasts.
An ordinance extending the declaration of local disaster was extended for another sixty days (the time frame can be extended or curtailed as the situation demands). This will allow the BOT a little leeway when it comes to three or more elected officials being in the same location at the same time and discussing what might need to be done in a particular situation, and the posting of official meetings (a.k.a. the sunshine laws). The official posting place for future meetings etc., will be the front door of the Lyons Elementary School (the temporary Town Hall).
A second ordinance giving Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen the emergency power to okay contracts of up to $100,000 (the normal limit is $5,000) for some of the large contracts that are going to come up during the recovery effort, with the proviso that the Board would be kept apprise of the running balances of the various fund balances.
The Trustees then passed a third ordinance that would enact a nightly curfew within town limits from 10 p.m., to 5 a.m., with exceptions for residents who are traveling to and from places of employment, or those involved in school functions. Sgt. Parker informed the Board that this was an action to balance the public’s right to go to and from their homes with the need to ensure security for empty households. All three of these ordinances were passed unanimously, 7 – 0, and as emergency measures, meaning they go into effect immediately, not requiring the usual first reading, second reading with public hearing, nor the thirty day waiting period.
The consent agenda, consisting of the September 3, BOT meeting minutes, and the September 2013 accounts payable was passed with little or no discussion. A resolution authorizing Simonsen to enter into mutual aid agreements with other local governments in response to the Front Range Flood (basically allows Lyons to get or give help and resources with neighboring communities).
Then it was time for Trustee reports. Trustee Dawn Weller reported that she had been spending the last five days manning the Lyons Resource Table at the Disaster Assistance Center located in the Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont.
Trustee LaVern Johnson informed everyone that she has been in contact with members of several historic preservation groups (no big surprise there) who were urging the residents to take and keep pictures of this disaster because “we are living through a historic event that people a hundred years from now will want to know about.” She also opined that perhaps “all the mud and sand that people were mucking out of their cellars could be put to good use restoring some of the eroded parts of Meadow and Bohn Parks.”
Trustee Sandy Banta notified her fellow Board members that the art from the most recent Town Hall art show has been moved to the Redstone Museum for safe keeping until the artists can retrieve it. She also gave an update on the work being done on communications (wi-fi, telephone, etc.) and utilities. Things are slowly getting better on that front. Simonsen said she had just that afternoon finally got her email back. She informed those present that she had 796 unread emails in her inbox. Banta explained that the utility priorities were, in order: repairing the wastewater collection and treatment system; next the drinking water and fire protection capabilities up to snuff; third getting the power to all areas of town; and lastly turning on the gas.
Mayor Pro-Tem Kirk Udovich reported that he had been in contact with LifeBridge Church, and that it is no longer acting as a disaster evacuation shelter (everyone has found alternative housing), but it is still a health and safety center in conjunction with the Red Cross. Udovich also suggested that LifeBridge was willing to host the next Community Update Meeting. He said the auditorium could hold a thousand people and parking would not be such a problem. The LifeBridge staff could video the proceedings and provide the Town’s website with a link or have it on Utube in an hour or so for those that couldn’t make the meeting. It was agreed that all such community update meetings will be held at LifeBridge. For now, those meeting will be held weekly, on Thursday night, at 7 p.m. It was also agreed that the BOT would hold their meetings at the Longmont Civic Center (Third and Kimbark) on Mondays at 5:30 p.m., on a weekly basis until further notice.
Trustee Connie Sullivan met with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet at the FEMA center in Longmont to discuss the needs of the business community. She said that she has been working on supporting the Lyons business community, and would be sharing information Lyons Area Chamber of Commerce, and suggested holding similar community update meetings for the area businesses.
Trustee Dan Greenberg said he had been approached as he left work that afternoon by someone with the Closing the Gap organization, who wanted to help residents who are having difficulty securing temporary housing. BOCO Disaster Recovery Manager Gary Sanfacon took the contact information, and said it would be given to the BOCO Housing table at the Twin Peaks Mall Disaster Center. So if you are having trouble finding housing, go to the mall.
Mayor Julie Van Domelen praised the efforts by everyone in the room (and those in Longmont) to get the Disaster Center up and running so fast, and expressed gratitude and the importance of having a “Lyons Table” in the center manned by resident volunteers whom people were familiar with. She gave an overview of the different efforts that were underway, and praised the work the Team Rubicon, a group of veterans who go to disaster areas (Haiti, Moore, OK, etc.) around the world to assist in humanitarian efforts. She said that Team Rubicon came into Lyons late Saturday morning, and had completed over a hundred assessments of the hardest hit homes by 5 p.m. They plan to have all homes in Lyons assessed in a few days, and begin working up recovery strategies (the tasks, equipment, and man power needs for each house) and either do the work (mucking out mud, clearing debris, removing water-soaked carpet, ripping out dry wall, stopping mold, etc.) themselves, or assigning the tasks to volunteer groups that have been vetted and approved (they must have the requisite skills, be insured, and able to track their work) by helpcoloradonow.org. Team Rubicon’s goal is to have every impacted home and business “contractor ready” in six to eight weeks. Residents and business owners who wish to take advantage of Team Rubicon’s efforts are free of charge, but people are asked to sign a waiver, and give their names, address of homes/businesses, and contact information. Team Rubicon is headquartered in the Longmont Home Depot parking lot (south side near the garden section). Van Domelen stressed that residents are free to hire their own contractors if they wish, but those contractors must be vetted and get a Lyons business license at the Disaster Assistance Center in Twin Peaks Mall. She also noted that all the work that
Team Rubicon does and/or organizes and tracks will be credited as Lyons’ “in kind” contributions against the FEMA clean up bill, which according to Town Engineer Jim Blankenship’s calculations could approach forty-three million dollars! That figure is just municipal infrastructure and properties, not the private sector!
Simonsen recounted her meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and a multitude of stake holders about whether to leave the river where it is, or attempt to redirect it back into its pre-flood channel. The consensus was to return it to its pre-flood course. She also touched on the magnitude of the challenges ahead of us as a town. She indicated that some of the broken water mains have not even been located yet, since they are still under water. Blankenship added that the pump station near the Rabbit Mountain turn-off was “okay,” ditto the water tank at the top of Apple Valley. But, everything in between, not so much. Blankenship added that new rights-of-way might have to be negotiated with private landowners, and he added it might be very difficult to get permission from the state to tear up the Apple Valley Road to lay pipe when it is the only way in or out for some of the outlying areas surrounding Lyons.
On that cheery note, the meeting was adjourned, with the hope that Sgt. Parker wouldn’t be handing out curfew violations at the door as we left.