By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
After spending 90 minutes in a budget workshop, the Board of Trustees (BOT) were in a very “agreeable” mood. Every vote taken during the rest of Monday’s regular meeting was passed with a 6 – 0 vote (Mayor Pro Tem Kirk Udovich was absent).First up, after the pledge of allegiance and a reflective moment of silence, was Lyons Substation Supervisor Sgt. Kevin Parker of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. Parker reported that although Lyons had been “very busy” (people-wise) during the recent RockyGrass Festival at Planet Bluegrass, it was indeed “very quiet as far as calls went.” He did mention that there has been a young black bear making the rounds on the West side of town, and said, “The people trying to get a glimpse of the bear have been more trouble than the bear.” Parker also regretfully reported to the Trustees that the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office would no longer be staging the annual Community Barbeque prior to the opening football game for Lyons High School. He added that the Lyons Booster Club would be taking over those duties. He reported that the Boulder County fire ban had been lifted (although he added that conditions were still extremely dry out there, and people should still use a high degree of caution). Parker also told the Board that there is now a permanent drop-off box for old and unused prescription drugs at the Sheriff’s Office in Boulder. He added that if elderly residents are unable to get to Boulder, they could call his office and make arrangements with a deputy to pick up the unwanted prescription drugs. This is an effort to reduce the incidents of people flushing old prescription drugs down the toilet, and into our watershed.
Acting as the Liquor Authority, the Board approved a change of date (from Saturday, September 8, to Saturday, September 15) for a special event permit for an art opening at Town Hall for the Lyons Arts and Humanities Council, and they also approved a special event permit for the Lyons Area Chamber of Commerce to operate a beer tent during the upcoming U.S. Pro Challenge Cycling Race on Saturday, August 25.
Switching back to their BOT hats, they then held a public hearing and second reading for an ordinance to reduce the required public notice time for Board of Adjustment hearings, from 45 days, to 15 days. Ditto an ordinance to allow bed and breakfast establishments as a “permitted” rather than a “conditional” use in A1 zones. During this public hearing, someone actually spoke: former Trustee, Peter Baumgartner, (long a champion of this idea) applauded the Board for “a step in the right direction.” However, he added that the step was “inadequate” and should also include the R1 zone as well.
In continuing with a process which they started last month with the adoption of a new employees’ manual for Town employees, the Board held another public hearing and second reading for an ordinance to repeal a code of ethical standards that was passed several years ago, but which was deemed redundant, unnecessary, and cumbersome with the new employee manual. This item got no comment from the public (who was not in attendance).
The consent agenda, consisting of the July accounts payable, the July 16 BOT meeting minutes, and the June 18 BOT meeting minutes, was passed with little or no discussion.
Then it was on to a presentation by Andrew Ross, a consultant for the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool. He informed the Trustees that there hadn’t been an “adjustment” (read rate increase) to the Lyons electrical rates since 2005 (a 6% rate increase was suggested in 2008, but the BOT at that time didn’t have the political stomach to pull the trigger). Ross noted that environmental regulations, global demand, and across the board inflation during the last seven years have steadily increased the cost for energy. It was also noted by Ross that if no rate increase were adopted, the Town would continue to draw down on its fund balance, depleting the required reserves, and making regularly scheduled capital improvements to the infrastructure difficult, if not impossible. This he cautioned was a dangerous position for a municipality to put itself in.
Ross asked if the Trustees wanted him to look into structuring an adjustment, probably in the neighborhood of an 8.7% increase, which might be introduced as early as this fall. He calculated that for a $60 to $65 per month electric bill, this would mean approximately a $5 increase. He informed the Board that, “Lyons currently has comparatively low rates, nation-wide, in the bottom third of the country.” There was some discussion between the Trustees about raising rates gradually over a few years, timing of the increase, debt service, the recent lowering of the water rates, subsidizing by one group for another, usage rates, net metering, wind generated power, etc., etc. Eventually, it was agreed that for the future solvency of the electrical fund, it would be prudent to consider a rate increase, and Mr. Ross was instructed to proceed with his calculations, and report back to the Board, sooner rather than later. So, start saving your pennies, it looks like an electrical rate increase is definitely in Lyons’ future.
Since it is getting close to budget time, the Board then discussed a resolution adopting a compensation and classification scale for employees of the Town of Lyons. When this was first broached last month, most on the Board felt that the “comparables” were skewed by the inclusion of Boulder and Longmont. Administrator Victoria Simonsen and her staff excluded those two, and came up with a list of communities that ranged in size from 1,500 to 5,000 residents, and had general funds that were more in line with Lyons. The result was that most employees fell within the “range.” Now it seems some of the verbiage concerning “scales” and “steps” needs to be hammered out, but Simonsen wanted assurances that the BOT was “comfortable” with her comparables. They were, and the process will proceed.
Trustee and Staff reports were given. Simonsen told the Board that street work on Stickney, between 3rd and 5th Avenues, had begun that morning, and was scheduled to finish in time for the opening of school. Trustee LaVern Johnson voiced concern that her square dancing “cohorts” would no be able to easily access the rear parking lot next to the gym for this week’s dance. That remains to be seen. Simonsen also advised that the basketball court in Bohn Park would be getting resurfaced shortly, and that project would probably require the closing of the court until sometime in October. That means the pickle ball players will have to cut their season short, or find another court. She also mentioned that the Town had hired a new planner, Bob Josephs, of Stamey & Associates from Estes Park. Mr. Josephs was the planner for Estes Park for twenty years, and will begin his Lyons duties as soon as he returns from a vacation abroad. The clock was now inching its way ever closer to 10:30 p.m., so Mayor Julie Van Domelen asked for a motion to adjourn, and she was obliged.