Town Board Meeting: April 25, 20228 min read
Hi neighbors! In Monday night’s Town Board Meeting, we conducted an interview with Stephanie Coffin for a vacancy on our CAPS committee; discussed our 2012 ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in residential construction; heard a presentation on solar and high-performance rebuild resources; heard an update from SAFEbuilt Colorado on their building plan reviews and inspection services; and heard an update from our Parks and Rec director Leslie Clark on damages to parks and open space from the Marshall Fire. Ready to find out more on what happened? As usual, you may read this post in written form, subscribe to the Laura for Superior podcast, 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. At the request of my fellow Board members, I am not attributing any points to them. For the most unbiased and complete information, I encourage residents to watch the meeting video and draw their own conclusions – visit the town website at SuperiorColorado.gov for the official meeting video and meeting minutes.
Item 2D – Marshall Fire Updates
Debris removal has begun at the hotels; our Town Manager said that we will start getting weekly updates on debris removal progress.
Our water treatment plant upgrades to add a granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment system are anticipated to complete by mid to late May. Unfortunately, Boulder County has not been willing to provide funding for individual municipalities, which means that in order for us to recoup the expense of the GAC system, Boulder County has pointed us to the state and federal governments. We have a request to FEMA for help, but Town Staff is not optimistic that this will yield results. We also have a request to Governor Hickenlooper for state funding, and in the meeting, discussed potentially drafting a letter from the entire Board to support this request. If we are not able to secure funding, we may need to pass this $2.5M cost on to residents by increasing water rates 13% – which I have grave concerns about doing. We will continue to discuss this.
Item 2E – Public Comment
During public comment, a resident and ACES member encouraged us to look at our fourth of July plans and consider further limitations / deterrents to fireworks based on the fire danger.
Item 3 – CAPS Interview
We conducted an interview with Stephanie Coffin to potentially fill a vacancy on the Cultural Arts and Public Spaces (CAPS) committee.
Item 4 – Consent Agenda
Next, our Board unanimously passed the entire consent agenda – including meeting minutes; a retroactive proclamation declaring April 19th as Boulder Community Health Day; a permit for alcoholic beverages at Wildflower Park for a party on May 14th; a $2K loan agreement to extend the loan of the Let Your Heart Soar sculpture by Mitch Levin at the Sports Stable; and a cancellation of a May election for directors of the Superior Metropolitan District 1 and Superior/McCaslin Interchange Metropolitan District (as these seats will be filled by all current Board members).
Item 8 – Requirement for Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems
Based on numerous requests from residents before the meeting, we moved up agenda item 8, a discussion of our requirement for all new builds to have fire sprinkler systems installed (implemented in 2012). We have heard significant feedback from residents who have lost homes in the fire asking for us to remove this requirement, to help decrease the cost to rebuild.
Mountain View Fire District Chief Jeff Webb presented a video of a home catching fire and the difference a sprinkler system can make – which was dramatic, giving the resident extra time to safely leave the house, and in the example we saw, saving the home. While the Marshall Fire was a catastrophic incident, Chief Webb said that almost all fires in a residence would be helped by having sprinklers, and that sprinklers dramatically decrease the number of firefighters hurt or killed while doing their jobs.
A member of the Board asked why, if this is so important, we weren’t requiring sprinklers to be retrofitted for everyone in town. Chief Webb said that the cost to retrofit a home is significantly more than the the cost to add sprinklers when the home is first built; as a data point, he noted that when he looked into retrofitting his own home, the cost was $40K rather than the $16K it would cost to have sprinklers added if his home were just being built.
One of the most compelling arguments for me was that if we do not make sprinklers required, a lot of people’s insurance won’t cover the cost of them – so if we give optionality to some people, that will prevent other people from being able to afford sprinklers.
I know that sprinklers would not have protected everyone’s home in the Marshall Fire – and in fact, at the Board meeting, we heard from residents who had sprinklers installed and still lost their homes. But sprinklers could make a big difference in less rare events – not just individual house fires, but smaller wildfires. And with fires becoming more common due to global warming and climate change, I think this protection is important.
For me, one of the important things to consider is that the choice of whether or not to put sprinklers in your home impacts everyone around you. It’s the reason we ban drinking and driving – because it’s not just your life at stake, but it’s those around you as well. We received an email from someone who lost their home, whose logic lined up with my thoughts. While I will keep the sender anonymous, I want to quote a portion of it that really stuck with me. “If I am lucky enough to live my next 25 years in my rebuilt home, that’s less than $1 per day to have peace of mind. If I forget to turn my teakettle or BBQ off one night, and a fire threatens my home and my neighbors home, where children are fast asleep in their beds, we could all have an extra minute or two to escape. Minutes mean a lot. A dollar a day for that? What a bargain!”
While I know the cost of these sprinkler systems can be onerous, right now is the best time for residents to be able to get grants, donations, and other financial assistance in installing sprinkler systems – which would be infinitely harder at a later date as a retrofit. If I have to be the bad guy in requiring an expensive upgrade, I will take that moniker – because the alternative, allowing people to build unsafe homes, is something I can’t accept. As another member of the Board said in the meeting, if there were another fire and someone died because they couldn’t get out in time, I couldn’t live with knowing that sprinklers could have dramatically slowed the spread and made the difference between life and death.
Ultimately, though, the Board directed Town Staff to draft an ordinance allowing residents rebuilding from the Marshall Fire to opt out of including sprinklers; we will vote on this at a future Board meeting.
Item 5 – Solar and High-Performance Rebuild Resources
Town Sustainability Analyst Alyssa Vogan gave a presentation on opportunities for those rebuilding to save money while building to green standards and adding solar – highlighting discounts, rebates, and resource sites. You may view the presentation here.
Item 6 – Update from SAFEbuilt Colorado on Building Plan Review and Inspection Services
Next, we heard an update from SAFEbuilt on the building permitting and inspection services processes, and how they are operating related to the Marshall Fire restoration, demolition and rebuilding for residents. SAFEbuilt noted that they are committed to staffing up to meet their timelines, and are also trying to shorten the committed timelines. In response to concerns, the SAFEBuilt representative said that people need to understand that there are multiple partners for every permit, and SAFEBuilt is the gatekeeper for all of those.
Item 7 – Marshall Fire Impact to Parks and Opens Space Update
Finally, we heard an update from Parks & Recreation Director Leslie Clark on damages to parks & open space from the Marshall Fire, as well as remediation plans and progress. More details can be found here, and photos of the damaged / destroyed areas are here.
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.