The Orchard City Town Board and the top administrative official from Colorado Municipal League met in public on Jan. 13 in a bid to mend fences.
A disagreement with how the CML is using annual member dues had led the trustees to consider withdrawing from the organization which provides educational resources to and lobbies for the municipalities of Colorado. Trustees were especially critical of a mailing endorsed by the CML which offered advice about municipal infrastructure spending priorities based on effects of "climate change."
When CML director Sam Mamet got word of the town's reaction to the mailing, he scheduled a trip to the Western Slope for a presentation to the town board and discussion of issues.
Mamet began his presentation with a short review of CML's activities on behalf of towns. He mentioned the Colorado Water Plan project. Mayor Don Suppes told Mamet that the state and federal governments are using the plan process "to beat us over the heads with" and "for dictating unfunded mandates."
Mamet replied, "I appreciate that. I agree with you completely."
He then apologized to the trustees for the mailing on climate change, saying, "I accept responsibility for that. It happened on my watch."
Discussion continued on water issues. Suppes noted the town's unhappiness with how Front Range cities admit they are after Western Slope water via new transmountain diversions in the Colorado Water Plan. "What is the CML doing [about that]?" Suppes asked.
The CML's position, Mamet replied, is that "In any of the conversations that evolve [from the plan], all of the communities impacted have to be at the table. We will take each bill that comes and make sure the people impacted know about it."
Suppes wasn't finished with the issue of water -- a topic always uppermost in the minds of Orchard City officials. He told Mamet that, "CDPHE (the Colorado health department) is a key player in this. They aren't making life any easier for anyone."
Suppes explained to the Delta County Independent following the meeting that the CDPHE has promulgated regulations that are preventing the use of "gray water" by the big, Front Range cities. Expanding the approved safe uses for gray water could decrease the amount of water from the Western Slope that the Front Range wants to tap via new transmountain diversion projects, he explained.
Trustee Beverly Moore asked for specifics of how the CML is working to help smaller communities.
In reply, Mamet explained there are three aspects to the CML's program. They are advocacy on legislative issues; training for elected officials; and information services. Orchard City's town administrator had previously noted that the CML provides some counseling on legal matters to dues-paying member governments as part of their annual dues assessments.
It was then Trustee Craig Fuller's turn to address his concerns. Fuller's objections to the global warming mail piece in November are what led eventually to Mamet's trip to Orchard City for the meeting last week.
Fuller thanked Mamet "for coming to the meeting and for being transparent and available." He also said, "It [the global warming view] was presented so one-sided, as matter-of-fact."
The mail piece advised towns to base their infrastructure spending on global warming, and then it admitted that it is not known what, if any, specific impacts from global warming will be, Fuller said.
Fuller said he himself has long been an advocate of climate change, "Even going back to the days when it was known as summer, spring, winter, and fall."
After learning in December that Mamet had scheduled his trip to the town, trustees directed town staff to withhold Orchard City's $1,292 annual dues payment for 2016 until they heard what he had to say. Trustees took no action at the meeting to release the dues payment, and Fuller noted, "We haven't paid our dues yet."
Mamet concluded his presentation saying, "We don't want to lose you."