Craig chief of police sworn in at city council meeting | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig chief of police sworn in at city council meeting

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

CRAIG — In a meeting muddled with confusing motions and parliamentary process, the Craig City Council took action on budget measures, city code and city contracts during its regular meeting Tuesday in the Craig Municipal Building.

Chief of police sworn in

Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong was sworn in Tuesday. In conjunction with the ceremony, the Craig Police Department color guard presented the state and federal flags. An overflow crowd watched the ceremony, standing in the doorway of council chambers. DeLong earned a standing ovation from the room.

"You had a great turnout. That says a lot about your leadership," said Councilman Tony Bohrer. "That right there proved that our choice (for chief of police) was correct."

Mayor John Ponikvar lauded DeLong for the mentorship he gave during the nine years Ponikvar served as a reserve police officer.

City budget; funding for the Human Resource Council

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City council approved the first reading of ordinance 1072, which would rollover funds allocated, but not spent, in 2017. Council intends to amend the ordinance on second reading to separate the ordinance into grant-funded items and city-funded items.

During the 2017 budget cuts, city council decided to cut the city's contribution to the Human Resource Council from $40,000 to $20,000.

On Tuesday, council discussed whether to increase the city's funding for the organization to the original level of $40,000.

After a motion was made to fund the organization at $40,000, Bohrer said he wanted to give equal consideration to other organizations that were hit with budget cuts, though he said he supported funding to HRC.

Bohrer moved to re-evaluate all entities that received a 50-percent budget cut in a supplemental budget to be discussed at council's next meeting, set for March 13. This would complicate the HRC's budgeting, as the organization is allocating its funds next week. Amanda Arnold, executive director of Moffat County United Way, said the organization needed to know how much money would be available to allocate.

After some confusion about the motions and amendments to motions, the HRC walked away with $20,000 in funding this year.

More funding could be considered for the organization, as well as a slew of other line items that were impacted by 50-percent budget cuts.

Safe routes to school

City council voted to award a bid for the Safe Routes to School project to Giovonni Construction, in the amount of $129,546.63.

The project, funded entirely by the Colorado Department of Transportation, will improve sidewalks on two to three city streets frequented by school children on their way to class.

The bid must also meet CDOT's requirements for the project. The city previously awarded a bid for the project but had to issue another request for proposals when CDOT did not approve the bid.

Bohrer raised concerns that city council wasn't awarding the bid to a local contractor. Two Craig construction companies, Anson Excavating and Duran and Pierce, bid on the project. The difference between Giovonni and Anson, the next lowest bidder, was about 17 percent.

The project will prioritize two city streets, and any remaining grant funds would be used to improve a third street. Using a higher bidder might have ruled out the possibility of improving a third street.

"I feel your pain, and I get where you're coming from, but I don't think the argument's going to hold any water with CDOT, and they probably wouldn't concur with us if we said we wanted to use local people," said Craig Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike. "I just think they'd say, 'Well, we're not going to award that, because we don't think that's a good use of our budget.'"

Ultimately, council unanimously approved awarding the bid to Giovanni, pending approval from CDOT and the budget ordinance, Ordinance 1072. Having bid on the project, Councilman Derek Duran recused himself from the discussion and vote.

Building code; Memorial Regional Health facility

Proposed parking infrastructure at the new MRH medical office building led to a 36-minute discussion about the facility and the planning and zoning commission.

MRH submitted a variance request, which would allow them to build with exceptions to city building code, to be reviewed by the city planning and zoning commission. If approved, the request would allow the hospital to build a parking lot with fewer concrete islands and trees. Trees would instead be planted around the perimeter of the lot. Councilman Chris Nichols, a former member of the planning and zoning commission, said the code was intended to break up wide expanses of concrete.

The planning and zoning commission denied the request on a 2 to 1 vote. When the commission denies variance requests, those requests can be appealed to city council.

Two issues arose from MRH's appeal. First, there was the issue of whether to approve the variance request. Second, vacant seats on the planning and zoning commission might have impacted the commission's vote.

MRH Chief Executive Officer Andy Daniels said the hospital sought the exception, because islands can create problems for patients. It's more difficult to maneuver around islands to remove snow, and, as it melts and re-freezes into ice, it can create unnecessary hazards for patients with limited mobility.

"We're not really saving a lot of money. We're not trying to skirt the issue on the number of plants we're planting," Daniels said. "What we're trying to do is use a common-sense approach in designing this parking lot for what we think is best for our patients. That's really the bottom line, from our perspective."

Richard Sadvar was the lone “no” vote on the commission. In explaining his vote to council, he said that, in his research, he'd found that islands provide a safety barrier for pedestrians, increasing the overall safety of the lot. Sadvar was also concerned about consistently enforcing building code.

"We don't have snow 12 months a year, so we have to consider those other six or seven months that the parking lot isn't an ice concern, in my opinion," Sadvar said.

Ultimately, the variance unanimously passed, with Duran abstaining from the vote and discussion due to a conflict of interest — his company might be contracted to work on the project.

However, the discussion raised concerns among both council members and planning and zoning commission members about how vacancies impact the commission's decision making.

Four of five spots on the planning and zoning commission are currently filled, and during the meeting at which the MRH's variance requests were discussed, one commissioner was absent due to a family emergency.

The commission needs a quorum of three people to meet, which it had, but a request must have three "yay" votes to pass. Another body at the meeting could easily have changed the outcome of the planning and zoning commission vote, preventing the variance from coming to city council.

"I don't really consider this a variance," Councilman Joe Bird said. "I consider it a shortage of people."

Other business

Council also took the following actions during Tuesday’s meeting.

• Renewed Carelli's Pizza's liquor license.

• Approved an amendment to a long-term lease for a lot on the Sandrocks, where a communications tower sits. The amendment will allow the tower's owner, SBA Communications, to build a gate in a more convenient location on the site.

• Directed the city attorney to draft a proposed ordinance that would shift more responsibility for tobacco enforcement from the state to the city.

• Tabled discussion about funding to demolish condemned of properties.

• Awarded bids to purchase a new trash truck. The body of the truck and the cab and chassis will be purchased from two vendors and assembled into the full truck. A bid for the cab and chassis was awarded to Faris Machinery for $152,627. The bid for the body was awarded to Grand Junction Peterbilt for $137,110. Both bids are contingent on council's approval of the budget ordinance, Ordinance 1072.

• Heard annual reports about the Water/Wastewater Department and the city's finances.

•The city manager announced the city hired an executive assistant to the city manager, aquatics manager and senior sales tax specialist.