By Joseph Lekarczyk
Dateline: October 8, 2013
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
There was only one item on under general business on Monday’s Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to talk about. Self-described “Temporary/Fill-in/Acting/Substitute/Second-String” Lyons Substation Supervisor Sgt. Kevin Parker (for Sgt. Nick Goldberger) informed the Board that “as of this afternoon (Monday, October 7) the National Guard is no longer manning the check-point as you come into town.” Those duties have been taken over by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, and will continue until Sunday, October 20. Parker indicated that there would be two deputies at the check-point during the day, and one at night. He also added that there would continue to be stepped up night patrols
through all neighborhoods, and that the curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was still in effect (exceptions will be made for residents whose jobs, etc. dictate that they come and go during the curfew; contact the Sheriff’s Office). There was quite a bit of lively discussion among the Board as to the balancing act between opening up the town so that the businesses can get back on their feet, with allaying the worries by residents that their empty homes would be open to vandals, thieves, and other unsavory elements. Parker implied that once State Highway 36 is open to Estes Park (and according to Colorado Public Radio, it’s getting close), the BoCo Sheriff Office’s hands are tied; they have to drop the check-point.
Trustees Connie Sullivan and Kirk Udovich and others suggested more barriers and “residential traffic only” signs for all neighborhoods, particularly the hardest hit areas. Trustee Sandy Banta vigorously pointed out that there are still lots of heavy equipment roaring around the streets, and the danger level is very high and real. Residents Jen Winger and Lori Harper suggested that non-resident visitors (i.e. people visiting for business related reasons) be issued a bright pink pass, and that those passes not be allowed into the neighborhoods, and be issued tickets for failure to comply. It was agreed that there is no “perfect solution.” Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen was tasked with coming up with a workable system. Good thing she has until October 20!
Parker also “notified” the public that his office does not respond to FaceBook posting about suspicious characters/activity. He reiterated, “If you see something that doesn’t look right, either call BoCo dispatch at (303) 441-4444, or dial 911. He said, “With all the deputies that are in town, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you get a response!” Parker also informed the gathering (and the reading public) that there will be a “test” of the emergency warning siren (along with the “Charlie Brown grown-up voice”) [which few people can understand anyway], on Friday, October 11, probably at around noon. Parker added that, “This will only happen if it’s a nice sunny bluebird day, if it’s cloudy or rainy, we won’t run the test.” The idea is to make sure the system is still in working order, not to scare the hell out of residents, volunteers, and contractors in the area. So readers, fair warning, don’t freak-out on Friday if you hear the siren go off!
Then it was on to the meat of the agenda; the discussion about whether the Town will waive its portion of building permit fees for residents making repairs to flood damaged homes. Finance Director Tony Cavalier reported that by law, state and county taxes for such permit fees must be collected. He also said that SafeBuilt (the Town’s building inspector) had agreed to waive all “one-stop visit” fees, but would still be charging fees for other more involved repairs on the approximately 161 homes they have identified as being flood damaged. Cavalier estimated that if the Town waived its portion of normal fees on the flood damaged homes; it would come to approximately a little less than $16,000. He also suggested that the Town be a little “flexible” on the number of homes that have been identified as damaged, indicating that the 161 number could go up a little as residents come back to their homes and find “moisture damage.” The Trustees were in agreement with Staff, and the Town’s portion only, of building permits, will be waived, but Mayor Van Domelen stressed that communication with the public was vital so that irate people don’t besiege Town Staff and officials wanting to know why they aren’t getting their building permits for free!
Van Domelen also suggested the need to tamp down fears and rumors about what will be done with the hardest hit areas of town. She said it was vital to form a “Confluence Residence Task Force/Committee made up of residents from that area, so they can give their views, ideas, suggestions, and consent to plans going forward. Trustee Dan Greenberg (who once lived in the neighborhood, and still owns a rental there) indicated he was in the process of putting together a “Lyons Housing Neighborhood Recovery Working Group,” which would be made up of interested property owners, technical support persons, engineers, FEMA representatives, etc. to tackle the redevelopment issues of the neighborhood. It was also mentioned that a group that specializes in restoration of wild lands might be of some help in cleaning up the river corridor after the river is put back to its pre-flood channel (which is now put on hold, due to the “partial governmental shut-down, thank-you svery much U.S. Congress).
During Trustee reports, it was learned that the library is now temporarily located at Lyons Elementary School (LES), and that if residents need their “pipes blown out” to winterize their homes and gardens, they should contact Ed Kean at Town Hall (also at LES). A new Disaster Recovery Center is now located in the LES gym, and there will be a Lyons Resource Center there as well. All residents are advised to stop in and re-check in with FEMA (It’ll be easier and faster now that it’ll only be Lyons residents, and the FEMA people will have a better view of what is going on since they will be in town and on the ground.) The Mayor reported that she had been approached by a couple of documentary film makers (one connected with KGNU in Boulder) about being allowed into town to film, and she wanted guidance and thoughts on how to proceed. Van Domelen didn’t want staff time to be taken up with assisting in this, or being bothered or inhibited by camera crews in their face while trying to do their jobs. Others felt that a balance would be needed for those who don’t want themselves or their homes to be seen on camera, and the benefits of “keeping the Lyons plight in the forefront” of the state, country, and world. Simonsen and Parker suggested that perhaps we could get some advice and assistance on how to proceed on this from the BoCo Public Information Officer, and maybe they could supply someone to oversee and direct the crews to people and places that were all right to film. Simonsen also said the “powering up” of the various neighborhoods has been going well, and is confident that the schedule for the rest of the town should continue. She also said that a permit to do work in the river area around the McConnell Bridge has been approved, but there are presently now funding available to do the work (see above comment about the U.S. Congress). Simonsen also was happy to report that some of the water lines in the Stone Canyon and the main part of town have been flushed (but not down the sewers/drains!), but she cautioned a lot of testing for Ecoli etc. has to be done before the water is safte to drink. She did say, “That a lot of valve work is being done,” and the Town has received formal notice that low interest loans have been approved (two million at 0% interest, and three point two million at 2%, with an additional two million more, if needed, also at 2%) for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade/repair.
It was then nearly eight o’clock, and an exhausted group of Town Staff and elected officials dragged themselves home to hopefully get a few hours of sleep. Trustee Udovich found a car himself that wouldn’t start, not even with a jump. It never rains, but it pours!