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TMCNet:  Boulder may ask voters for executive sessions on utility formation [Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. :: ]

[April 23, 2014]

Boulder may ask voters for executive sessions on utility formation [Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. :: ]

(Daily Camera (Boulder, CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 23--Boulder City Council members may ask voters to give them the power to go behind closed doors to talk about legal issues related to municipalization.

Boulder is unusual in not allowing its City Council any executive session authority. Many other cities can discuss legal strategy, property acquisition and personnel matters in private, but the Boulder city charter prohibits all executive sessions.


City voters have twice before rejected charter amendments that would have allowed for executive sessions, but Mayor Matt Appelbaum said it's time to ask again as the city prepares for a lengthy legal battle with Xcel Energy.

There was broad support on the City Council for pursuing such a charter amendment.

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel cautioned that transparency is important in Boulder and any charter amendment should be narrow if council members want it to pass.

City Attorney Tom Carr said he would draft proposed language that would identify specific situations related to municipalization under which the City Council could meet privately, with provisions for when those discussions would become public and when the authority would expire.

Councilman Andrew Shoemaker wanted to add a provision for discussing personnel matters privately, but other council members worried that the broader the authority, the less likely it would be to pass.

Boulder officials insist they have not made a final decision about whether to form a municipal electric utility, but the city has given Xcel notice of intent to acquire its Boulder distribution system, a precursor to filing for condemnation.

The Boulder City Council discussed several potential ballot measures Tuesday night. No final decisions will be made until late this summer.

Capital projects tax A short-term 0.2 percent or 0.3 percent sales tax could go toward city capital projects and also to boost the capital campaigns of several area nonprofits.

Many City Council members were supportive of the pay-as-you-go capital program, including the idea of adding 0.1 percent to the tax to help the new Museum of Boulder (formally the Boulder History Museum), the Dairy Center for the Arts and the Colorado Chautauqua Association.

The tax would raise roughly $2.8 million a year for each 0.1 percent. A 0.2 percent tax would raise $16.8 million over three years, while a 0.3 percent tax would raise $25.2 million over three years.

Some of the possible projects identified by the city are: $8.7 million for Civic Area "catalytic improvements" to kick off the revitalization of central Boulder; $6.7 million for renovation of the Flatirons Events Center, which housed A Spice of Life and suffered extensive flood damage; and $1.7 million for improvements on University Hill.

Several nonprofits have also asked the city for funding.

The Dairy Center has asked for $4 million for the renovation of two theaters.

The Museum of Boulder, which recently acquired the historic Masonic Lodge at Pine Street and Broadway, also asked for $4 million to assist an $8 million capital campaign to convert the building into a new museum.

Chautauqua requested $3 million to help underground electric lines there.

Many council members were cautious about spending so much money on the Flatirons Events Center, but they asked the city staff to bring back a range of spending options.

Appelbaum said he was worried about spending city money without knowing if the nonprofits' capital campaigns would be successful.

He also said a third fire station is a much higher priority.

City Manager Jane Brautigam said finding a site for the fire station is a complicated issue that would require staging other projects on various city-owned parcels.

Other possible ballot measures The City Council also was supportive of a ballot measure that would exempt Boulder from state law that prevents the city from providing telecommunications services, such as citywide wireless.

And council members were divided on whether to ask voters to approve a lodging tax on vacation rentals, which are now illegal in most of the city. Many council members felt they should only tax the rentals if they were going to create a regulatory structure for them, which would be a significant planning endeavor.

___ (c)2014 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Visit the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) at www.dailycamera.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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