Town Board Meeting: January 13, 202010 min read
Hi neighbors! In Monday night’s Town Board Work Session and Meeting, we heard a resident’s idea to create a Technology, Information, and Communication Commission; interviewed two residents for potential appointment to OSAC and ACES; approved an agreement with Vargas Property Services for landscaping maintenance and snow removal; directed Town Staff to move forward with undergrounding power lines in Original Town; approved a contract with Mutton Mowers to use goats (and a llama) for weed control; and conducted performance evaluations of the Town Manager and Town Attorney. Ready to find out more on what happened? As usual, you may read this post in written form, or scroll to the bottom for a video recap.
Disclaimer: While I do my best to represent an honest and accurate portrayal of meetings and events, the following should be considered an editorial that represents one person’s interpretation of the meetings. At the request of my fellow Board members, I am keeping their points anonymous rather than trying to attribute my interpretation to them personally. For the most unbiased and complete information, I would encourage residents to watch the meeting video itself and draw their own conclusions – visit the town website at SuperiorColorado.gov for the official meeting video and meeting minutes. Finally, I’d also encourage you to check out EngagedCitizens.us, which is a fantastic free tool created by one of our own residents. Engaged Citizens includes a repository of agendas, documents, and meeting videos, and allows you to search within a video to jump to critical parts. I hope you find it as helpful as I do!
Item 2E – Public Comment
Monday’s Board meeting kicked off with public comment on non-agenda items. Resident Sean Maday shared an idea from Cupertino, California – to create a Technology, Information, and Communication Commission that would harness the abundant tech talent we have in the area and advise the town on a wide range of telecommunications and technology topics. I absolutely love this idea! We do not have a Town Staff member who is dedicated to technology, yet it underpins a lot of the topics that our residents say are important: cellular service, a choice in internet providers (rather than our current near-monopoly), and digital engagement / communications. I will be discussing this matter with our Town Manager at my next one-on-one; if you think it’s a good idea, I’d also encourage you to email email@example.com to express your support for the creation of this committee.
Item 3 – Advisory Committee Interviews
Next, the Board conducted an interview with resident Rainer Kunz to potentially fill one of two open positions on the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC), and an interview with resident Stephan Sain to potentially fill the one open position on the Advisory Committee for Environmental Sustainability (ACES). I was very pleased to see that both applicants had already attended meetings of the committees they are hoping to join; as I stated at a previous meeting, this for me is a firm requirement to earn an appointment. If you have not even attended a committee meeting (or at least watched a video of the meeting online), how can you know for sure that you want to join that committee? Going forward, I will not vote to appoint anyone who has not taken the time to attend a meeting.
Item 4 – Consent Agenda
Next, our Board unanimously passed the consent agenda – including meeting minutes, a proclamation for National Radon Awareness Month (reminder: there is a Boulder County program that offers discounted radon testing kits to all residents); a resolution for the location of official posting of meeting notices; appointments to the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council; approval of a new criterion for removal of a committee member; a new manager added to the liquor license for Evolution LLC (Fairways Golf); a memorandum of understanding with Boulder County for costs associated with the expansion of the Hazardous Materials Management Facility; and approval of an amendment to the Windy Gap agreement to provide our town’s pro rata share payment.
One item was pulled from the consent agenda – item 3G, an agreement with Vargas Property Services for landscape maintenance and snow removal. In 2019, this contract was for $1.08M; in 2020, it increases to $1.29M. One member of the Board asked for a complete breakdown of this cost increase; it comes from the addition of Main Street and Block 13 in Downtown Superior, 1500 Coalton Road, Oerman-Roche trailhead, and a switch to glufosinate ammonium (Ignite) as an alternative to glyphosate (Roundup). That last item generated a number of questions from the Board; we approved this switch last summer to limit the use of Roundup as a known carcinogen, but this was the first time we’ve seen the true cost of that decision. Ultimately, our Board also approved this contract unanimously.
Item 5 – Presentation / Discussion of Approach to Undergrounding in Original Town
Most utility lines in Superior are underground – except for lines in Original Town. “Undergrounding” (or burying power lines) can help prevent power outages and accidents; last year, our Board directed staff to assemble options to underground the rest of our power lines (linked here). With those options, our Board essentially had three decisions to make: whether to underground, on what timeline (all at once or half now and half in 2026), and how to pay for it.
On the question of funding, the options that staff presented include using money from Xcel Energy’s 1% undergrounding fund – essentially, a shared pool of Xcel’s electric utility revenue of which 1% is accrued to towns to underground their lines. Craig Eicher from Xcel let us know that this money is not necessarily guaranteed, particularly beyond the three year time horizon; it is partially dependent on how many other towns opt to use it at this time. Combining our current balance with our power under the franchise agreement to borrow ahead three years, this could provide $1.0M to subsidize the cost – which staff estimate (in total) to be $1.58M for the main lines. We are currently accruing ~$72K / year, so we would need to wait six years if we wanted the undergrounding fund to pay the full cost. Alternately, if we wanted to do it today, we could pay the $500K shortfall out of our general fund. However, it should be noted that once we underground the lines, the 1% is not available to us for anything else, and the $500K we spend out of the town budget could not be recouped from Xcel even once we accrue more revenue.
In my opinion, the thorniest issue of all was not the $1.58M in cost to underground the main lines, but the incremental $750,000 to extend the underground lines to the 100 affected private homes – and whether that cost should be borne by the homeowners themselves or the whole town. As I stated in the meeting, I believe that providing individual upgrades to homes should not be funded by the broader town, particularly since each home in Original Town is so different and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, I do think it’s important for us to upgrade the shared lines as soon as possible – both to ensure safety and also to allow those residents who would like to upgrade their individual lines / junction boxes to do so. We approved ~$500K in our budget this year to underground the lines on 88th Street; it seems to me only equitable that we would do the same for Original Town.
After a lot of Board discussion, we agreed to have staff move forward with plans to begin the undergrounding in the next year (option 3 from the presentation – town funds cost of undergrounding mains, homeowners fund service lines and juncture boxes, all in 2020). However, we did not yet finalize this decision, nor did we determine how we can help individual homeowners pay for the service lines and juncture boxes to their homes via financing; we thought it would be better to first meet with Original Town residents to understand their preferences around financing. Town Staff will be organizing these resident meetings in the coming weeks.
Item 6 – GOATS!!!
Our next item on the agenda was a much anticipated item: the approval of a $4,200 contract with Mutton Mowers, to use goats for weed control in the open space between Indiana and Castle Peak Ave. The goats will live on site day and night for the estimated 42 days it will take to cover the 7 acres, and they come with a guard llama named Vinny who will protect them from predators (I can’t make this stuff up).
In response to questions from the Board, Mutton Mowers’ owner Emily McMurtrey said the goats don’t have much of an odor / noise impact (they typically only make noise when McMurtrey arrives and when they are moving from one pen to another). They will also come with an electric fence to keep them safe, but McMurtrey says that dogs can typically sense the electricity and don’t get too close. The goats are all rescues, and are all named. While no one can be in the area while the goats are working, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know them better at “Meet and Bleat” events where there will be an open petting zoo and education sessions in conjunction with the Parks and Rec department.
I’m pleased to report that we agreed to move forward with hiring Vinny and the goats 😉
Item 7 – Reports
We ended the public portion of the meeting with Board reports. (This is a change from doing these at the beginning of the meeting, but I think it’s a welcome one.) During reports, I reminded everyone that over the winter break, I brought on an intern from my alma mater, Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Brad Silver, who assisted on the survey that just went out to residents about designs for the community space at 1500 Coalton Road.
Over the last few weeks, Brad also took the lead on developing a survey to assess my own performance as a board member. As I mentioned in our December reports, I was disappointed that there are no formal performance evaluations for Board members, and also that there wasn’t any appetite from the rest of the Board to begin doing this so we can better understand our own areas for improvement. In lieu of that, I’m releasing my own survey to help me evaluate my strengths and weaknesses, and also assess progress against my goals of promoting smart development, fiscal responsibility, and transparent communications. I would greatly appreciate it if you could spend five minutes of your time completing an evaluation of my leadership here.
Item 7 – Executive Session
Finally, we went into Executive Session until 10:30pm to discuss and conduct annual performance reviews for our Town Attorney and Town Manager.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read / listen to this recap – I hope it is helpful! Our Board is always open to hearing your comments, questions, and concerns – you may always email your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to me specifically at email@example.com. As a reminder, any messages sent to a government email are part of the public record and will have your name attached; if you feel the need to write in anonymously, you may always comment at the bottom of my blog post recaps.