Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

 

Thursday, May 22, 2008 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland, Library, Loveland

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

Present:

Nancy Wallace

Bill Pinkham

Sue Sparling

Ben Manvel

Bob Streeter

Jean Carpenter

Brian Hayes

Ted Swanson

Jim White

Don Griffith

 

Staff:

K-Lynn Cameron

Lori Smith

Gary Buffington

Deb Wykoff

Jeffery Boring

Meegan Flenniken

Kerri Rollins

Windy Kelley

Alex Somero

 

 

Absent:

Bill Newman

Peter Kast

 

Chair, Nancy Wallace called the meeting to order at 5:19 p.m.

 

Bill P. motioned to approve the April minutes. Sue seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Correction/Additions to April 24 minutes: A comment was not captured in the Director’s Report section during the discussion regarding the proposed Glade Reservoir. Bob stated the Colorado Division of Wildlife has said if the reservoir is constructed they will recommend no-wake boating only.

                                                                                                      

PUBLIC COMMENT:

No public comment.

 

INFORMATION ITEMS:

·  Update on Red Mountain Open Space. Meegan, project manager, said trail construction of the hiking only loop has started and an archeologist, Jason La Belle, has given clearance on the proposed trail alignment ensuring nothing of significant cultural value is endangered. During the next several weeks a geotech study will be conducted at the proposed trailhead, ensuring no significant gypsum deposits are situated beneath the proposed location.

·  Update on Hermit Park Open Space. Meegan said she has been working with the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) to identify pine beetle trees on the property. Several beetle trees have been located and slated for removal. Approximately 25 trees were identified for preventative spraying (using a licensed contractor) because they are character trees or highly prominent trees that also do not exhibit other forest health issues (such as mistletoe). Meegan gave a construction update in lieu of Chris Fleming, construction manager.  The redesign of the entryway and the primary road from Highway 36 to the Group Use Area are nearly complete: the parking lot at the Group Use Area has been constructed per the Master Plan. These projects make certain the facilities meet local and state standards for public use. Meegan noted HPOS will not be 100% complete for opening; during the next several weeks the area will only be open on weekends to allow continued construction of the newly added elements of the road and turn around beyond the Group Use Area.

·  Update on River Bluffs Open Space. Jeffrey noted the planning process is still underway and the next public meeting will be at the beginning of July. We anticipate bringing the plan to the Board, for adoption at the July meeting.

·  The Education Coordinator position was filled. Congratulations Rob Novak!!!

·  Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins are partnering to submit a one time grant opportunity to GOCO for trail and trailhead development at Red Mountain Open Space and Soapstone Natural Area.

·  About a dozen employees of Agilent Technologies volunteered to clean and prepare camper cabins at Hermit Park on Friday, May 2!

·  Friends of Larimer County hosted a volunteer day at Hermit Park Open Space on May 3.They finished cleaning camper cabins, weeded the volleyball courts and removed the horseshoe pits and bird boxes.

·  Hermit Park campsite and camper cabin reservations opened on May 10.

·  The annual picnic for the Open Lands and Parks boards is scheduled for June 14.

·  Open Lands’ staff visited Boulder County May 12 to visit and learn about the different frameworks they are using to incorporate “Community Supported Gardens/Agriculture” into their open space program.

·  Open Lands’ staff and Advisory Board members had a field to Devil’s Backbone Open Space on May 19.

·  The “Every Drop Counts” shrub planting along the Pleasant Valley Trail on April 26 was a success. The event had 50 volunteers from Anheuser-Bush and 550 shrubs were planted.

·  Parks and Open Lands events for June. See handout.

·  Several citizens applied for the At Large position on the Advisory Board which will be open in July.

·  Welcome our new Open Lands Intern Alex Somero. Alex will be with us for the next several months, completing a 400-hour internship requirement through CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources internship program.

 

BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda

Jim asked if the Department has considered a partnership with the Town of Estes Park to manage pine beetles. Meegan responded, so far we have partnered with CSFS to address pine beetle and other forest health issues. She added the forest structure in Hermit Park is a very diverse, montane system. The best prevention of pine beetle kill is to ensure the forest is not too dense and that there is good species diversity, both of which exist on Hermit Park. Preventatively, spraying trees for pine beetle costs approximately ten-fifteen dollars per tree. Pine beetles are native and a natural part of the system, the spruce budworm which moved through the Estes Valley in the 1980s is a perfect example of a similar process. The spruce population is coming back nicely after approximately twenty years.

 

Bill P. recommended the Department talk with Wendell Amos as he has over twenty years of expertise in the field. Often times spray is applied too early and once pine beetles become active the application has washed off.

 

Jean added Julie Vida’s community which is adjacent to HPOS has been spraying for several years. Maybe the Department can partner with them for spraying pine beetle trees. Meegan responded that we do know the forest is diverse with several aspen groves, a mix of deciduous trees and about a fifty-fifty split between pine and spruce trees. While about 25 character trees will be preventatively treated, there are some environmental considerations to spraying including impacts to wetlands and spray drift impacts to visitors.

DISCUSSION:

  • Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (See enclosure.)

K-Lynn indicated the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has requested OLAB to submit comments/recommendations to the BOCC regarding the EIS for the NISP project. Comments are due to the BCC before the Advisory Board’s next meeting on June 26. Ted, Bob, Peter and Ben have all volunteered to serve as the subcommittee for OLAB.

 

Jeffrey indicated the Board should have received an electronic memo summarizing the subcommittee meeting. The committee discussed how the proposed reservoir will affect the priority land protection areas identified in the Open Lands Master Plan. Through an extensive public process these priorities were identified by the Larimer County community. Several priority areas will be directly impacted if the proposed Glade Reservoir is constructed including: 1) Highway 287 corridor; 2) mouth of the Poudre Canyon; and 3) Poudre River Corridor. The proposed action is not compatible with the Open Lands Master Plan. The first priority, Highway 287 corridor, serves as important habitat for pronghorn, mule deer, and two globally rare plant communities. The rerouting of Highway 287 will directly impact these resources. The mouth of the Poudre Canyon includes significant agricultural, wetland, native and rare vegetation communities and scenic values. The Poudre River is a significant ecological, visual and recreational priority area. With the development of this project these priorities will either be lost or significantly degraded. The subcommittee identified several imperative considerations that were not addressed in the EIS; echoing one point of the subcommittee’s comments for the proposed 1041 regulations which is to incorporate water storage facilities during the initial phase of the proposed regulation. The committee’s next step is to validate our points.

 

Ben indicated the City of Fort Collins is extensively reviewing the science and economics of the proposed NISP project. It is imperative our reactions are specific regarding impacts of the project whether deficient or accurate. As Jill Bennett discussed, the proposed 1041 regulation will be most useful when a proposed project primarily impacts one area and a separate area benefits. The proposed Glade Reservoir is a perfect example with only approximately 5% of the benefit coming back to Fort Collins, which will experience the greatest impacts, and the remaining benefits going elsewhere. I hope the BOCC recognize this. K-Lynn asked if this cost:benefit is noted in the subcommittee memo. If not, the Board indicated it should be added. Essentially water production is the primary benefit and it will be going to communities outside of Larimer County. The associated environmental, economic and recreational impacts would be the cost and if approved will be within Larimer County.

 

Ben: The EIS looks at different impacts, for example, impacts to wetlands. The alternative is to build small reservoirs which would be more expensive and result in loss of some wetlands and agricultural land. If you look down the columns in the report it is startling where the cost and benefits of the alternative lay. The City of Fort Collins is concerned with the impact to the community’s water quality and their Utilities Department is intensively studying this potential impact.

 

Ben added, subcommittee member Peter Kast’s (absent) comments which relate to the June rise of the Poudre River and its inherent character which provides important riparian and wildlife habitat.

 

Nancy: Many examples of impacts and detriment exist if the proposed Glade Reservoir is constructed. One is the impact to our community’s water quality if they move water between area reservoirs (i.e. from the proposed Glade Reservoir to Horsetooth).Water quality in Horsetooth Reservoir will be degraded if water from Glade Reservoir is introduced. Additionally, several of the proposed pump station locations, associated with this project, are in Larimer County. The cost of these pump stations will directly impact citizen’s of Larimer County.

 

Bill N.: Reviewing the “Do Nothing” alternative, I looked and found only one table outlining, but not substantiating the suggested amount that it will cost, almost a billion dollars to do nothing. I don’t buy it. One thing that needs to be included is more explanation as to where they got their numbers for the “do nothing” alternative.

 

K-Lynn asked if the Army Corp of Engineers identified their sources of the economic benefits stated in the D-EIS.

 

Kerri asked who is going to bear the associated costs.

 

Nancy: A lot of cost is associated with this project. An analysis needs to be conducted and added to the report showing the implications of them buying and drying up agricultural lands. Additionally, the cost of operating three or four pump stations needs to be considered.

 

Bill N.: What significant conservation measures were considered in the report? This needs to be challenged.

 

Nancy: The criteria to justify a viable alternative were very narrow and eliminated a number of small potential alternatives that if added together may be a very viable alternative. It would be like saying, I can’t feed my family on just “x,” “y,” or “z” (“z” alone will not feed my family). However, if you put all three items together you can feed your family.

 

Bob: They did not look at the conservation impacts cumulatively. This needs to happen.

 

Nancy: The report indicates the “no action” alternative would result in 69,000 acres of agricultural land being taken out of production. They did not say if these are irrigated agricultural fields.

 

Ted: My concerns are with the two assumptions 1) taking land out of irrigated production if there is not storage and 2) the water rights for Glade Reservoir are very junior. They will continue to buy agriculture water even before the reservoir is filled, and basically the reality will be that the “no action” and Glade alternatives will both happen. I don’t think this is a realistic solution.

 

Jean said she asked Brian Werner, with Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, about the pumps. He indicated they would be above ground, are large and noisy. This is a huge operation.

 

Jean: The design is inadequate. Required pumping and who will be paying for it as well as impacts associated with pumping, all of this needs to be addressed.

 

Bob: Do we want to include mitigation requirements in case the project is built? Nancy added, if the proposed reservoir is constructed should the BOCC state there are requirements if they want to do “x” then they have to do “z.”

 

K-Lynn: Talking with the City of Fort Collins, they are asking what would success look like if the reservoir is approved, in terms of mitigation. Does the Board want to make any comments regarding mitigation, if so, the comments could be general. For example, there needs to be adequate water flow every third year to maintain the health of the ecosystem.

 

Nancy: They will have to do mitigation for the wetlands.

 

K-Lynn: This idea may impact agricultural lands, but a comment John Stokes with the City of Fort Collins made is the concept of purchasing more senior water rights and putting them back into the Poudre River.

 

Ben: Mitigation requirements are another great reason for the County to take on the proposed 1041 regulations.

 

K-Lynn: Perhaps that’s how we present it to the BOCC, the proposed 1041 regulations would enable them more negotiation power.

 

Jean: I’m concerned there are not high flows, specifically in May the water will get warm. There are not provisions looking at the chemistry of the water. We should have learned a lot from the Grand Canyon and the importance of biodiversity. Is it mitigation or common sense, we know this needs to be done right.

 

Brian: How will the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir be different from the proposed Glade Reservoir? Is the cost:benefit ratio different between the two projects? K-Lynn responded that Chimney Hollow is part of the Windy Gap Project and an EIS was completed for it 10 years ago, it has already been approved. The EIS for the Windy Gap Firming Project is coming out soon. A primary difference is Chimney Hollow will not impact any existing roads or homes.

 

Ben: It is interesting to contrast the federal EIS process with the proposed 1041 regulations. There is more power with the 1041.

 

Bob: They outline that the communities who will benefit from the reservoir will run out of water nearly before the reservoir is even built.

 

Nancy: What this should say is we should have state wide policies on growth.  The BOCC should be addressing growth as the issue, not the proposed NISP project. We don’t have the resources for growth to 2050. The towns will be three times as big but there will be no more water. When do we say this is enough, there is no more water?

 

Don: It is not in the Board’s purview to deal with growth issues. Bob supported Don’s comment.

 

Jim: I think of 100 years ago when they looked at the water needs. They set us up well and if they had not acted, we would be in a serious situation, especially with drought. This project could be foresight from the NCWCD. I think they are good stewards, the mitigation issues could help with some of the potential issues. Without water we can’t grow crops or take care of animals, I believe Northern is multi-faceted and they consider these issues.

 

Ted: Reluctantly looking at growth and creating water storage for the Front Range as part of quality of life. We need to look at this in terms of resources available where we live; there is no free water, except maybe in very wet years. What we are really talking about is the future. If a water storage facility is built how do we want the water to be used, for recreation or agriculture. There is an assumption that if we build the reservoir we will have water, however water is still being taken from somewhere else.

 

Bob: With global climate change there will be different levels of water. The higher-up water could be stored, the flows would be better. It is hard to argue one way or another. They do have junior water rights. My understanding is the town of Thorton has the next junior water rights, they could build a pipeline.  I’m bothered with the ambiguities of the proposed project, I am not sure what their operational plan is or what the project will really consist of. Jeffrey has done a great job focusing on the Open Lands Master Plan.

 

Jeffrey: The EIS is unclear about connecting the proposed Glade Reservoir to Horsetooth Reservoir. It appears they are trying to maximize their flexibility.

 

Bob: We need to say on which pages we are not clear what the project entails as well as state that they need to provide this information before the project moves forward.

 

K-Lynn asked Jeffrey to incorporate comments into the subcommittee’s existing categories of discussion. The next step would be the subcommittee, followed by the entire Board reviewing the comments. After the Board has reviewed the comments if they are not comfortable with them, we will meet and discuss this subject again.

 

Jeffrey noted Peter’s letter and comments suggest the primary issue is the flows in the Poudre River. Jeffrey asked if the rest of the Board agreed and wanted to focus on that in the memo over other comments.

 

Nancy: Direct comments should pertain to the Open Lands Master Plan. K-Lynn agreed with Nancy, it is important we keep in-mind how the proposed NISP project directly impacts the Open Lands Master Plan priorities.

 

  • Proposed 1041 Regulations and Designation of Power Plants and Transmission Lines

K-Lynn introduced Jill Bennett (Principle Planner) with the Larimer County Planning Department. She noted the OLAB had a subcommittee who reviewed the proposed 1041 regulations.

 

Jill explained state law provides the opportunity for local governments (city and county) to require certain projects go through a permitting process; these are called matters of state interest. The types of projects that can be included in this permit are large public facilities such as electric lines, state highways, etc. or similar private projects.

 

Transmission lines and power plants are the first phase of regulations the County is considering. It is anticipated a request for a large wind farm will be submitted by the end of the year. This is a complicated project as it is part private and part public. A good, yet very complex aspect of the regulations is they can apply to both public and private projects. We know there is interest for the regulations to include other projects, however for now the Board of County Commissioners has directed us to focus on power plants and electrical transmission lines. Presently, there is no consensus on the BOCC regarding water storage facilities or federal highway projects.

 

Some counties are using the general wording from the state statue, but I am not comfortable defining major projects that way. We want more detailed definitions of “large projects” and we want to discuss the regulations with stakeholders before asking for adoption. However, there are counties who are addressing each project on a case by case basis.

 

Ben: As a member of city government I find it remarkable the BOCC does not want to take a case by case approach. The only reason I can think of for why they are not doing this is because the public could say they have the power to step-in, but they choose otherwise. The full regulations would give them more power. Jill indicated she can not speak for the BOCC, it’s a political issue. The permitting process adds time and money which we would all pay. This particularly a sticking point when a known entity that is accountable is requesting a permit, example City of Fort Collins.

 

Ben: In other counties are they blanket regulations? Jill responded this can be done, particularly in smaller counties; they tend not to have specific regulations. Our Planning Commission wants the regulations to be more specific, enabling us to move more quickly once the regulations are in place.

 

Jill: The first phase for adopting the regulations for power plants and electric transmission lines will be implemented in early August; the next phase will take two to three months to meet required advertising. That phase will address major pipelines for water sewer and natural gas.

 

Nancy: The proposed 1041 regulations have been taking place for at least four years. Wind power has been the reason the County is moving forwarded with proposing the regulations. Jill added, small and large wind farms are part of the zoning package. It is known a wind farm application will be submitted and if the County does not address the 1041 regulations, we know there will be adversary towards the BCC for not acting.

 

Ben: The 1041 regulations add a level of power. What is and is not allowed? Jill said this is correct. Projects have been litigated to the Supreme Court, for the most part stopping them. For example, high mountain reservoirs and interstate projects have both been stopped at a local level. Cities can do this too. Ben added Weld County adopted 1041 regulations last year.

 

Jill noted the regulations have been discussed since 1979, when the Rawhide Plant was constructed. This is a political process, and I appreciate your comments either specific or philosophical.

 

Nancy noted the Board will have comments and the subcommittee has already compiled a list.

 

Jim asked how many counties in Colorado utilize the regulations and has research been conducted as to whether or not these counties found the regulations favorable? Jill responded that many counties adopted the regulations during the 1970’s, but of these counties how many of them actively implement the regulations, is unknown. Counties located along the Front Range have been contacted and were asked what did, did not work for them as well as if they thought it is a good process. It seems the regulations have their place, specifically with larger projects, beyond the scope of day to day activities. Larger projects include ones where benefit of a project goes to a different community then the cost or when there is substantial public review.

 

Kerri asked if Larimer County could be targeted for future projects if the regulations are not adopted. Jill responded that projects are mostly geographically located, with the preferred alternative generally being the cheapest. The regulations would be more in-depth then the EIS process. Each alternative would be evaluated and have a thorough explanation of the costs, benefits and why the preferred alternative was selected. These are tax payers’ budgets; it is not a yes or no decision.  We are trying to put as much as possible in the criteria to provide guidance to decision makers.

 

Ben: Are the draft regulations drafted after existing counties? Jill indicated in the beginning there was a model and about 70 percent of counties have followed this model. Weld County regulations are more detailed then others. Larimer County has borrowed from there’s as well as from Boulder County. Society has changed a lot in the last 30 years when the state first implemented the regulations.

 

Nancy noted on page 7d of the proposed regulations, there are specific criteria for the varying projects, and some are more specific then others. She added she will email the subcommittee comments to the Board. Additional comments should be sent to Nancy by May 30.

 

  • Hermit Park Open Space – Conservation Easement violation

K-Lynn explained to the Board that the Department has received notice of a violation of the conservation easement (CE) on Hermit Park Open Space (HPOS). The violation was self-reported to the easement holder, Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT). Funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) for the acquisition of the property requires a third party hold the conservation easement.  The CE is specific about what activities are allowed or prohibited on the property. The violation was in-part due to working too fast. Fill dirt material was needed and was removed from an area Hewlett Packard used as a trailhead.

 

K-Lynn added that conservation easements are very important and the Department needs to take this seriously. We are working with Ken Oldham, Estes Valley Land Trust Attorney, who composed the CE violation letter and submitted it to GOCO (see handout). A restoration plan for the subject area will be required per the letter and is currently being developed. EVLT is requiring we appoint a staff conservation easement compliance liaison to conduct regular site visits to HPOS and who is familiar with the conservation easement. We will also work with the County Construction Manager to become familiar with the CE and its conditions.

 

Bob inquired about the cost of the mitigation work. Meegan responded that she is working on the restoration plan with Engineering and the anticipated costs if we implement the restoration work while Connell is on-site are likely minimal as the main work includes restoring a sustainable 3:1 slope and revegetating. Staff will track the costs.

 

Bill P.: Do you envision GOCO will conduct a site visit to ensure they are happy with the results?

 

Kerri said she was contacted by GOCO in regards to the violation letter sent to them. They have requested for Larimer County to continue to work with EVLT to correct the violation and to be kept abreast of the on-goings.

 

Gary noted the violation was an expansion of an existing borrow pit.

 

Bob: Who made the decision to disturb the area? Gary responded it was a team effort. Bob inquired further of who has the ultimate responsibility. Gary apologized and said ultimately he is responsible. Bob added it is important to take responsibility. People do not go into an area without some type of approval. There should be consequences for the administrators.

 

Nancy: This cannot be taken lightly and it is the responsibility of staff. It gives the Department a bad reputation, especially as we plan to go back to voters.

 

Don: I think we have now addressed the situation appropriately.

 

FINANCIAL REPORT:

  • Acquisition and Development Fund Cash Flow – According to: (24-6-402(4) (a) C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest, this section was addressed in executive session.

 

  • Natural Resource Capital Construction Projects – Deb (See handout)

Deb explained yellow highlighted sections indicate changes since the last time the Board viewed the Natural Resource Capital Construction Projects spreadsheet. The two primary reasons for these changes are related to 1) an additional $500,000 the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) provided to make ADA improvements and 2) we had $555,000 set aside to make necessary retrofits bringing the reservoirs up to the new ADA standards. The BOR has agreed that instead of requiring 5% of the facilities at each individual campground to be ADA-compliant, it is acceptable for 5% of the total recreation improvements at each reservoir to be ADA-compliant.  This will significantly reduce how much money needs to be set aside for the retrofits, so that more of the BOR funds are available to match up to 50 percent on new reservoir facilities. The money for retrofits is still set aside until we do know exactly what will be required.

 

Open space sales tax dollars will be spent in 2008 at the Blue Sky Trailhead for earth work, as a 50 percent match for a GOCO grant the Parks Program received. The cost has increased from $40,000 to $70,000.

 

Nancy: Why has the cost increased that much? Gary responded the initial figure was a construction estimate; we have not received any bids yet. With how other bids have come in-lately we decided to set aside more money.

 

Deb: Last time OLAB saw this spreadsheet, the Carter Lake Marian project was budgeted at $2.7 million. It has increased $31,000 for contingencies. The total contract price has stayed nearly the same. Lottery Funds that had been allocated to Hermit Park Open Space (HPOS) have been moved to the Carter Lake project for a total of $1.5 million from Lottery funds for the marina project, this reduces the loan amount that will be needed.

 

Hermit Park Open Space construction costs went up from $1.2 million to $1.4 million due to a number of smaller components, the bulk of which was for road work which included a 15 percent contingency.

 

K-Lynn noted initially the Open Lands Program designated $600,000 for construction costs at HPOS. She asked how much of the $600,000 has been spent so far. Meegan responded her best, rounded-up estimate would be $770,000, not including the $800,000 modular.

 

Nancy: What projects will the $1.4 million be spent-on? Meegan responded the modular and the turn lanes on highway 36, construction of the trail to Kruger Rock, a vault toiler at the Group Use Area, and an entrance sign.

 

Nancy noted that half the budget for HPOS in 2008 was suppose to come from the Parks Program. Since the Parks Program is not contributing money towards HPOS in 2008, where is the money coming from? With the Carter Lake marina project over budget the Parks Program is no longer contributing to HPOS? Gary responded the original dollars allocated to HPOS was a figure staff identified, not a recommendation from the Boards. It was my decision as a team to have both programs contribute to the HPOS 2008 budget, we offered the split fifty, fifty budget from the two programs as a solution in October. Things change overtime and as the Department Director I thought it was best to reallocate the funds, resulting in a smaller loan. Once we receive the BOR funds for the ADA retrofits, we will need less then a million dollar loan.

 

Sue stressed $600,000 is a lot of money for the Open Lands Program to cover and inquired what the impact will be to the Program. Gary added it is important for the Board to go through the Acquisition and Development fund cash flow to see how money will be used to meet the priorities of the Open Lands Program.

 

Bob: In March the Board asked if we would still have the $600,000 from the Lottery money and again we asked in April, both times you said yes. When and what costs did you consider cutting at the marina? Gary responded nothing can be cut out at the marina.

 

Bob expressed his frustration, saying last month he asked if money was being shifted. You said no decisions had been made. One thing is affecting another when for the most part construction estimates are coming in low, an additional cost of $200,000 at Hermit Park, on-top of shifting Park funds from Hermit Park to the Carter Lake marina. The federal government would be looking at negligence and then to allocate $200,000 for a building when a much less modest and lower cost building would be sufficient. The continuation of shifting money to things not originally proposed to the Board, it seems other management decisions could be made to allocate funds for future acquisitions. I think it is more important right now to acquire the land.

 

Jim: What we’re talking about is an understanding of the process, particularly as costs increase. If a project increases from one million dollars to $1.2 million this increase could go to the Board’s first. The process to shift funds was not clear and the Boards did not have the opportunity to say it’s an increase we support.

 

Nancy: If a project changes and you can not work with the existing budget you need to discuss this with the Boards. Over the last year we have had budgets presented to us and you have said these are recommendations from staff, and then they change the following week. We’re suppose to be provided the opportunity to advise, however decisions are being made and we’re informed after the fact. I’m disappointed.

 

Don contributed that budgets and construction estimates can be off. I have total confidence in Gary and K-Lynn and what they do with the budgets, including the recommendations they make to the Board. It is important the improvements are made at Hermit Park. I understand it was believed the area would be a turnkey operation, however it isn’t and improvements need to be made for it to open. County employees are not just throwing money around, I do think it is important to provide our feedback, but I don’t see anything that alarms me.

 

Ben: At the City of Fort Collins, when a project cost comes-in greater then the estimated costs, we go back to the boards for advice. I don’t know how the County works; does the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approve the budgets? The Open Lands Advisory Board does have priorities and when a cost comes-in we should be asked if funds should be reallocated. Does the BCC see the line item expenditures? Gary said no the BCC just sees the final expenditures. Ben asked who makes the final decisions within the Department for how funds will be spent. Gary responded the Board can make recommendations to the BCC against staff recommendations. Ben added it appears there are large amounts of money being moved around, millions of dollars. It’s not a pretty picture, it bothers me and from what I’m hearing it’s bothering others too.

 

Gary noted the questions and answers (i.e. Director’s Report distributed prior to the meeting) should explain why funds were reallocated. I’ve looked at the line item budget for Hermit Park Open Space and I have identified what can, cannot be paid for by the Open Space sales tax. Currently, there are available sales tax dollars for Hermit Park. In the future, at HPOS we may be looking at projects that cannot be funded by the sales tax, in the end the dollars the two programs contribute to HPOS may balance. We want Hermit Park to pay for itself, if we don’t make the improvements this won’t happen.

 

Ben: It’s cheaper to acquire land now, but we don’t have the money.

 

Bill P.: Is part of the issue around shifting funds due to the number of projects taking place right now, making it more difficult to be thorough? Gary responded there has not been a misuse of funds, he also prefers lower costs. He explained there are no upfront contracts for construction. For example there was no contract for the Carter Lake marina until either March or April of this year.

 

Jim asked if accountability accounting exists throughout a project. Gary said yes. Jim added, collectedly the voice of the Board should be heard by the BCC. It’s simply a process. The Board prioritizes priorities, and a budget is developed and proposed. If staff realizes the initial budget is not sufficient, they should come back to the Board and explain why the budget is not adequate and request additional funds for the project or curtail the project.

 

Gary: Would you borrow money before you spent your savings? I can’t see borrowing money when dollars are still available.

 

Nancy: It would have been better two months ago if you would have informed the Board of the financial shortfall and if you would have asked whether the Board would recommend borrowing or reallocating funds. I would be more satisfied if the Board would have been part of the decision making process, specifically when it was determined the Open Lands Program would be paying for all of the improvements at Hermit Park Open Space this year. The trust of the Board has been undermined. We were unaware of the cost of the Carter Lake marina and the increased budget process was never reviewed with this Board.

 

Jean: I believe there has been an erosion of the philosophy where the Help Preserve Open Space sales tax first evolved. The Open Lands Program tax dollars are not intended to be shifted over to handle projects for the Parks Program. I think it’s more then the process, it’s the erosion of the philosophy.

 

K-Lynn shared Peter’s comments submitted electronically. Peter: As always budgets should reflect the Boards priorities, and I am not sure this one does. For example, my impression was the Poudre River Trail was our number one trail priority, yet the capital spending plan shows a $70,000 expenditure for the Blue Sky trailhead (Field of Dreams), which I don’t recall ever putting a high priority on. It seems as if Hermit Park is becoming a black hole. Our original commitment, I believe, was to purchase the land and allocated an additional $500,000 or so for development. Through 2009 it looks like the budget is for another $1.4 million to go there. I love Hermit Park. It is a jewel. But I don’t we have this kind of money to spend unless we want to completely hut our remaining income stream and thus forgo other projects. At another point in our history I might see it differently. But I think having a list of items left undone to fund in the next ballot measure makes sense for the public to see. I think it is okay to have some delayed gratification. Hermit Park will be open and useable. I simply don’t see this kind of spending as matching our priorities at this point in time. Perhaps the original Hermit Park fundraising group could be reactivated to raise money for some of these items. My opinion is we need to move our money on to Red Mountain, finishing the Poudre trail and eventually Chimney Hollow. In consideration of the election, the more new areas we can open-up the better.

 

Brian: I don’t feel too strongly about the reallocation of funds if we’re not missing any opportunities.

 

Nancy: Maybe we’re not missing an opportunity, but I still think it is important the Board participates in making decisions.

 

Bob: It would be good for us to see what the anticipated cost estimates are for the next several years. You said we would address revenues this month and what should be anticipated with the $1.3 million going to Hermit Park this year. I request this to be addressed during next months meeting.

 

Nancy: Is there anything else in the construction schedule that really affects the Open Lands Program?

 

Deb: We have reviewed everything on the Construction Schedule, including both park and open space projects. Other information about budgets which affect the Open Lands Program is contained on Lori’s cash, which will be reviewed during executive session, later this meeting.

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:  

Handouts emailed prior to the meeting will be addressed during the June OLAB meeting.

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  (24-6-402(4) (a) C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest. Bob moved to go into Executive Session at 8:05 p.m., Sue seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Ben. The motion was seconded by Don and carried unanimously. The meeting was adjourned at 8:57 p.m.

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.