By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
They say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” and “It’s water under the bridge.” But for Lyons residents and landlords Sharon and Richard Jones it is definitely understandable to cry over water
under the bridge, especially when it’s to the tune of slightly more than $2,200. The couple appeared before the Board of Trustees (BOT) Monday night to appeal a Town water bill for a leak on their rental property located on Fifth Avenue.
It’s a complicated story, involving a bit of “he said, she said,” but basically sometime in the spring of 2012, the Jones’s renter allegedly mentioned to them that they heard noises (perhaps running water) coming from an outdoor yard spigot or well on the property. Sometime in late summer or early fall a Town employee said when trying to get help from the renter in locating the water main to the house, he was informed by the tenant that the house had well water. In mid-December of 2012 crews from the Town of Lyons Public Works Department replaced a water meter that was located beneath the sink inside the home (as was apparently the custom ago in Lyons), with a meter that is located at the street where the lateral and the water main meet (which is where meters are now placed, according to code). A few weeks later, in early January of 2013, when the new meter was read for the first time, it was discovered that 447,000 gallons of water had been used! Public Works Supervisor Kyle Miller informed the owners that he suspected a leak, and it was located in a box below the outdoor spigot, and the Jones’s had it repaired within hours. However, the leaking water had gone down the well, into the river and under the bridge, on its way back to Longmont.
Apparently, sometime before Sharon and Richard Jones bought the house, someone had spliced into the lateral, between the water main and the meter, and installed the spigot for exterior use in watering lawn and landscaping. So the leak, which was located on the property (and was therefore the responsibility of the owner for maintenance) but in front of the meter, was flowing undetected for who knows how long. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen estimated that if nearly a half million gallons went down the drain between mid-December of 2012, and early January of 2013, then there could have been as much as three million gallons of leakage since the spring of 2012 (when the tenant allegedly reported the noise). But there is no way to tell since the water was un-metered. The only thing “known” is that 447,000 leaked out between December and January.
Everyone on the BOT and Town Staff felt badly for the owners, but in the end, the owners are legally responsible for the water used on their property, leaks or otherwise, and if the owners are forgiven the debt, the rest of the water users (all other town residents) have to pick up the tab. Simonsen told the Board since this was obviously involved “extreme circumstances” she suggested that the metered leakage be billed at the lowest tier rate, with a twenty-four month payment schedule at no interest. This would save the Jones’s approximately $1400. The Board agreed to these measures unanimously. Although not completely satisfied (who would be with a $2200 water bill?), Ms. Jones was grateful for the reduction. She also suggested that in the future, since landlords are ultimately responsible for the utility bills of their renters, that all communication about utilities should include the owners. Simonsen said that utility bills can be sent to landlords upon request, and added that she and her staff would look into ways to improve communications between the Town and its utility customers. In a side note, Simonsen told the Trustees that Kyle Miller informed her there are maybe two hundred homes in Lyons that still have meters located inside the house, and he hopes to have them all replaced and relocated at the street by the end of the summer.
The Board then passed the first reading of two new ordinances. The first involved the towing of cars whose owners have ignored or otherwise not paid two or more parking violations. This means three strikes and you’re out. Anyone who has “scoff-lawed” two parking tickets in the previous three years (all outstanding tickets will be considered retro-active when the ordinance goes into effect) could be subject to a tow the next time a parking ticket is issued (then you will be on the “hook” [pun intended] for three tickets plus the towing fee). In fact, the way the ordinance is worded, if you have two outstanding tickets and are parked legally, your vehicle can still be towed! So maybe it’s more like two strikes and you “could” be out! The second ordinance involved a “location and extent review process” for public facilities projects (like the proposed wastewater treatment plant). The second readings and public hearings for both ordinances will be held at the May 20, BOT meeting. So if you have two outstanding parking violations, and would like to voice your opinion (for or against) concerning the purposed towing ordinance by all means attend the meeting and let your voice be heard (I’m sure the Town Prosecutor and Judge will be pleased to see that you finally made it down to Town Hall!).
The consent agenda, consisting of the April 15 BOT meeting minutes, the April 29 special BOT meeting minutes, the May 2013 accounts payable, and a resolution to accept public improvements for the Lyons Valley Park, filing #8, phase IIA was approved.
The Trustees gave their reports, as did the Staff. Mayor Julie Van Domelen and Simonsen notified everyone that a movie will be shooting scenes here in town next month at the Lyons Dairy Bar. According to Van Domelen, it will be a “road trip” period movie set in the early 60’s, starring some “A-list” Hollywood actors. Rumor has it the filmmakers will be looking for vintage cars, locals to do extra work, and also some other locations. Trustee Connie Sullivan indicated that indeed, HBO television series Entourage star Kevin Connolly had visited the St. Vrain Market, and was interested in using the market as a location for the movie. Further sleuthing uncovered that the Outlaw Saloon has also been in negotiations about use of the establishment as a location. Calls by this reporter to the production company, as of Tuesday afternoon, have gone unanswered, but I will continue to dig, and report back to you, faithful readers, as soon as any new developments are uncovered.