By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
It was a very light agenda for the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting Tuesday night (the regularly scheduled Monday meeting was rescheduled because of Presidents’ Day). Just the kind of agenda that can get bogged down in rambling discussions about small details and tangential subjects. Mayor Julie Van Domelen was not about to let that happen, as she continually brought the discussions back on point, and suggested that various discussions on side topics be brought back up at future meetings as agenda items.
Lyons Substation Supervisor Nick Goldberger got things rolling by reporting that things are still pretty quiet here in Lyons. He also presented, on behalf of Boulder County Sheriff
Joe Pele, Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen with a plaque to honor her participation for the last nine months in a Boulder County Sheriff’s Office strategic planning program. Then it was on to audience business. There was no one in the audience, so this went relatively quick.
Then it was on to the meat of the agenda; the readings and public hearings for four purposed ordinances. The first was the long, struggled-over (by the BOT, the Planning and Community Development Commission, two Town Planners, and several other Boards and Commissions) second reading and public hearing for an ordinance to amend Lyons zoning regulations to create a site plan review process. After verifying that a few requested changes had been made, deleting a word or two here and there, combining a couple of “Whereases,” and adjusting a few formatting mistakes, the public hearing was opened and closed by the Mayor with two quick taps of the gavel (the was no public present for comment).
The second ordinance was the first reading of an ordinance concerning the leasing of Town owned property (the old railroad right of way) to Raul Vasquez of Blue Mountain Stone. After a short discussion with Manny Vasquez (there to represent the family business), who inquired about an estimated time-table for a proposed multi-use pathway that may one day use the right of way, requested longer terms for the lease (it is for three years at $3,300 per year), and asked about the possibility of buying the property outright. The Board was vague about the timetable for the construction of the pathway, saying the planning of said project was on their “to do” list for 2013. They denied the request for a longer lease citing the desire to get all of the leases for Town property uniform with three-year terms. As far as the selling of the property, the Trustees asked Town Attorney Tim Cox to look into the procedure for the selling of Town property. There will be a second reading on the lease agreement at the March 4, BOT meeting.
The second reading and public hearing for a “net metering” ordinance was next up. This one, too, has been in the works for quite some time (all the way back to the Trustee/Mayor Pro Tem Brian Donnell days). Essentially, this is an ordinance that would allow customers to generate their own electricity through the installation of photo voltaic cells, and sell it back to the Town for use by other customers in the system. The sticking point has been something the power suppliers (in Lyons case the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska) term as “avoided cost rates.” These are in theory the infrastructure costs and administrative costs that an energy provider incurs with the delivery of said power. These costs are factored into the equation when it comes time to decide how much the Town will pay the customer for the excess self-generated alternative power. The industry standard is to pay less than the wholesale cost. However, Van Domelen questioned, “What are we trying to promote here? Do we want people to generate alternative energy and conserve?” And if so, she queried, “Why do we want to ‘ding’ someone for conserving or producing electricity?” She added that if the base rates that every customer is required to pay are an accurate reflection of the cost of delivery, then any supposed “avoided cost” would be paid for by other customers in the system who used the generated power. “I can’t see why we would pay less than wholesale,” she added. The rest of the Board was in total agreement, and after another two quick raps of the gavel, the public hearing was closed and the measure was passed with a 7 to 0 vote.
The final ordinance of the evening was the first reading regarding the Town’s authority to institute a “late fee” on unpaid utility bills. Trustee LaVern Johnson was shocked that, “we don’t already have one?” She was told by Town Clerk Deb Anthony that we used to have one, but at some point it went by the wayside. Simonsen reported to the Board that on average at least a hundred customers regularly are 30 to 60 days in arrears, and consistently wait until they get their “shut-off” notice to pay the bill. She added that these added notifications and calls take up a full day of staff time each month. Although everyone on the Board was in agreement that this practice needed to be addressed, and that a late fee was appropriate, when the Mayor asked for a motion to give the Town the authority to levy the late fees everyone apparently started thinking about the future irate phone calls they might be subjected to. Finally, after a long pause with everyone looking at someone else to speak up, Trustee Kirk Udovich said, “What the heck, I’m term-limited.” The motion was made and seconded, and passed unanimously. The second reading and public hearing will be held at the March 4, meeting. Maybe this will bring some citizens to be heard!
The consent agenda, consisting of the February 4 BOT meeting minutes and the February accounts payable was passed, and it was on to Trustee and Staff reports. Trustee Dawn Weller informed the Board (and the public) that the Town’s recycling was now “single stream.” Meaning except for corrugated cardboard, recyclers no longer have to separate plastic and glass from paper. There are still two roll off containers, but everything can be put into either one. Simonsen was thanked by the Trustees for the hosting the skating party at the most recent Chamber of Commerce social (last Wednesday evening) and she reported that, “the sales tax revenue for January of 2013 were the highest December amount collected in four or five years,” since the recession and economic downturn hit in 2008. She added that the Town collected approximately $7,000 more than she had budgeted for. On that happy note, the meeting was adjourned.