The Town of Paonia board of trustees has approved a contract with the Fort Collins-based management consulting firm, Cruz and Associates, Inc., to complete water and sewer rate studies.
The contract calls for separate studies for water and sewer rates, each costing $4,200. Money will come from the respective enterprise funds. Upon completion of the study, Cruz and Associates will provide the town with recommended base rates and fees. The studies are expected to be completed within 90 days.
Mayor pro tem Charles Stewart said the proposal from Cruz was the only one considered, for two reasons. Moving forward now allows the town to have a rate study in hand as soon as possible, as was promised to citizens when rates were increased under emergency ordinances in December. The company, and principal Leroy Cruz, also have strong qualifications and have completed more than 150 studies of this nature. In addition, the fees were quite reasonable, said Stewart.
The town chose to have rate studies done by a professional firm due to the complexities involved in setting rates. "People really need to know how complicated of a determination it is to make," said Stewart. While citizens and board members may have differing ideas on how to go about setting rates, "We need to rely on expert advise." This way, added Stewart, the decision is based not just on trustee opinions, but on "good, reliable information."
At the Feb. 9 board meeting, Stewart said the board went into executive session to discuss the contract with Spiegel Industrial, which is repairing damages to the lining of the one million-gallon Lower Lamborn Mesa water storage tank.
Also discussed in executive session was the town's contract with the Department of Local Affairs to assist with funding of the town manager salary. In January 2014, the town entered into what it believes is a three-year contract, said Stewart. Per contract, the grant pays 75 percent of the manager's salary the first year (2014), 50 percent the second year, and 25 percent the third year.
However, the grant has a termination date of Jan. 31, 2016. This forces the town to come up with about $22,000, which is not in the 2016 budget. The town requested, and was denied, a contract extension with DOLA, said Stewart. DOLA set a condition for the town to separate the town manager and town clerk positions, both of which Berry is currently covering.
In January, Stewart and trustee Ross King, both of whom serve on the town's finance committee, attempted to work out an extension through May to give the town time to work through the issue and to allow the newly-elected board to make determinations. DOLA denied that extension.
Stewart said the door is still open and the money could come back. Realistically, he said, it may all fall upon the newly-elected board, over which Stewart will preside as mayor after no other citizens petitioned to run for the position in the April 5 municipal election.
Upon reconvening the meeting, no action was taken on either item, said Stewart.
At the Feb. 23 board meeting, trustees are scheduled to consider the Special Review Application for the Silver Leaf Cohousing Development proposed for construction of 13 units in the 400 block of Third Street between Clark and Minnesota avenues. The town planning commission has held a public hearing and presentation by Circle Development Corporation and has recommended approval to the board of trustees.
A joint special meeting between the board and planning commission was held Jan. 26 to discuss the special review process in anticipation of the upcoming meeting.