Mayor John Gates
What’s Great about Greeley
Sunrise Community Health was awarded approximately $230,000 in Quality Achievement Award Funding from the Federal Health Resources & Services Administration. Additionally, the health center was found to place in the top 30% in the nation in terms of similar healthcare providers.
School District 6 had the most schools rated at performance level by the Colorado Department of Education than ever before. Performance level is the highest rating given.
Sherrie Peif, a life-long Greeley resident and long-time local reporter, was first to speak. First, Peif thanked Council for not pursuing a third tax proposal on this year’s ballot (a .14% tax).
Peif then stated, “What I want to address tonight . . . is how tax revenue is shuffled around the general fund.” Concerning Peif was the fact that the new City Center building that Greeley City Council was hosting its regular Council meeting in for the first time tonight was built using “creative funding.” The building was built using Certificates of Participation (COPs), which Peif described as debt “disguised as a small one year lease that shifts money around the general fund to pay it back.” Ultimately, Peif complained, “[COPs] are still debt, and it’s debt that violates the spirit of the TABOR laws.”
Furthermore, Peif took issue with the upcoming second phase of City Hall rebuilds. One of Peif’s main concerns with Phase 2 of City Hall was that it will be built without taxpayers being asked for approval. On top of this, Peif argued that, for one, “$45 million in general fund revenue should not be shifted and spent on Phase 2 when 100,000+ people are impacted by three intersections in this community that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) classifies as the most dangerous intersections in the state of Colorado.” It was suggested by Peif that this money might be otherwise spent to purchase undeveloped land in west Greeley to maintain space between the city and Loveland, Johnstown and Windsor. Or, she also suggested it might be used to make improvements to local treasures, such as the Union Colony Civic Center (UCCC), Island Grove Park or the Ice Haus.
“Anything less than a vote of the people on Phase 2,” Peif said, “means that Mayor Gates and Councilman Casseday, $70 million of new debt was approved by you under your watch without voter approval.” Peif stressed that if the City wants a new City Center then the City should ask voters to approve it. Also, Peif brought up the fact that three councilmembers will be up for re-election next year. Is this really what the residents who will be in charge of deciding whether or not to re-elect these three councilmembers want? Peif insinuated.
Bill Gillard spoke next. Today, Gillard just wanted to express his appreciation for the new City Center building. Gillard said he liked the spaciousness of the building and felt it was well designed. “We have a great looking building,” Gillard quickly finished.
Former Greeley Mayor Tom Norton was last to provide public input tonight. As one of the elected officials behind the original planning for the new City Center building, Norton wished to give a brief account of all that went into the new building. Norton said that a lot work was done between City Council and Assistant City Manager Roy Otto, Assistant City Manager Becky Safarik and Finance Director Victoria Runkle concerning how such a building might be paid for. The former mayor informed everyone in the room at tonight’s Council meeting that plans to build the new City Center building were first drawn up nine years ago. First, Norton said, the City looked at a number of pieces of land and properties it owned. Norton said at that time the City found it “had more square footage than needed, but all in wrong place.” The City was looking to keep as many of its City buildings and facilities within a confined, centralized area as possible and not have City buildings scattered about here and there, or “all in wrong place[s].”
“So,” Norton said, “we put together a plan so we could bring all of the various Council and [City] operations together.” In doing so, the City also developed a long-term finance plan that would see the City selling off COPs (as Sherrie Peif mentioned just before) in order to avoid many upfront costs and also keep payments lower over the course of paying off the City Center building. Norton admitted that COPs are, even in his own opinion, a last resort, but insisted that good financial management in this case meant using COPs along with continuing operational plans. According to Norton, the availability of a reliable, long-term income, the opportunity to make long-term finance payments and the ability to budget for these payments year after year were all major factors in how and why the City decided nine year ago to go forward with building a new City Center. To again drill home the overall importance of how the City uses money, the former Greeley Mayor said, “I hope the public understands that very important aspect of how we manage things and how we manage money.”
Reports from Mayor and Councilmembers
Councilmember Michael Fitzsimmons reported that this weeks’ guest at Coffee with Councilmember Fitzsimmons will be Greeley’s new police chief, Mark Jones. This event will take place September 8th at 10 a.m. at Continuum Coffee.
Councilmember Jon Smail reported that he attended the Billie Martinez Neighborhood Celebration even just a couple weeks earlier. Local artist Armando Silva joined the festivities, painting a mural on the east side of the Rodarte Center, along with about 400 other Greeley residents. Smail said he also took part in a Linn Grove Cemetary tour hosted by Zues, a District 6 student who’s apart of the Career Explore Intern Program. Lastly, the councilman mentioned his participation in a ride along with staff from Code Compliance in Ward I (find Ward I here). Smail said the code compliance officer he rode along with was “very efficient and very courteous” with residents he talked to.
Councilmember Robb Casseday gave his report last. Casseday said he and the Mayor appeared at a promotion ceremony for Fire Station 1. The promotions, Casseday verified, were for lieutenant, battalion chief and division chief.
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to approve place on the November election ballot the question of authorizing the City Council to extendto December 31, 2042, for specified purposes, the 0.30% Sales and Use Tax rate that will expire on December 31, 2022. The public hearing and final reading were set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, September 4, 2018.
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to approveappropriating additional sums to defray the expenses and liabilities of the City of Greeley for the balance of the fiscal year of 2018 and for funds held in reserve for encumbrances at December 31, 2017. The public hearing and final reading were set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, September 18, 2018.
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to authorizethe acquisition of interests in real property located in Weld County, Colorado for water lines by purchase or exercise of the power of eminent domain pursuant to Section 7 of Article XVI, Section 15, Article 2 and Section 1 and 6, Article 20 of Colorado Constitution, and CRS 38-1-101, Gold Hill Segment Pipeline Project. The public hearing and final reading were set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, September 18, 2018.
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to approve changing the official zoning map of the City of Greeley, Colorado, from C-D (Conservation District) to I-M (Industrial Medium Intensity) zoning for approximately 9.97 acres of property known as the 1140 East 8thStreet rezone.The public hearing and final reading were set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, September 18, 2018.
All of the above items on tonight’s consent agenda were approved by a 7-0 vote.
Public Hearing/Final Readings
- Proposing Placing A Tax Extension Questions on This Year’s November Election Ballot -
(Click here to learn about the presentation that was given by the City’s Finance Director for this hearing)
Greeley’s City Finance Director Victoria Runkle gave a 24-minute-long presentation. After her presentation ended, Mayor John Gates thanked Runkle, telling her she did a good job providing lots of information that was necessary for both the Council and residents to hear.
Mayor asked if there were questions for the Finance Director.
Councilmember Stacy Suniga had a few questions. First, Suniga asked Runkle if as the City grows it would be okay to use the Quality of Life Tax to hire new City staff when it becomes necessary.
Runkle answered, “you will legally be allowed to,” just only for certain positions. Such positions would include those needed to run parks and recreation centers, but not for positions such as accountants. As Runkle stated in her presentation, City staff is currently only suggesting using money from the Public Safety Bond Sales Tax to pay for staffing. That money would be used to pay for 15 new fire fighters to fill the proposed Fire Station 7 (estimated $1.5 million to cover 2019 salaries).
Suniga’s concern was with the number of current and possibly future residents having to commute out of Greeley for work. She reasoned that the more Greeley residents stay local, the more money that’s spent locally, thereby helping stimulate local business, which could lead to the creation of even more new jobs. Park and recreation jobs with the City, Suniga was suggestion, could be some of the jobs that help keep people local and kick off this whole economic cycle.
Suniga ended by making a statement about how much the Quality of Life Tax and the Public Safety Bond Sales Tax have contributed to the City, how facilities will always need maintenance and to eventually be rebuilt and how the time probably has come for the City to start considering what to do when either of the taxes expire. “I def support this tax on ballot,” Suniga said, “cause we’ve give great gift to our residents and id like to see the greatness continue.”
There were no additional questions from Councilmembers.
Mayor Gates then opened this hearing up for public input.
First to speak was local attorney Ann La Plante. “I hate to burst your bubble,” La Plante said sharply, “but you’re too late.” La Plante came tonight strictly to speak on a legal matter. In order for the City to place a question on an election ballot, the City has to provide public notice of the possibility of such a question going onto the ballot at least 10 days ahead. As La Plante was saying, this notice went out on August 29th(due to the error with The Greeley Tribune as was discussed earlier in the meeting) and the day the City plans to place the question on the ballot is September 7th. This leaves only nine days between the date of public notice and the date the question will go on the ballot, not ten.
“I do think there’s a silver lining,” La Plante went on. “Maybe you guys won’t agree with me.” La Plante argued that because 2019 would be an election year for City Council seats (City Council elections take place every other year; learn more about City Council elections here), that would be a better time to have vote on the tax extensions as those Councilmembers who would be running for reelection would have a greater opportunity to explain the need for this tax extension to citizens. The local attorney also suggested that next year would be more fitting as this year’s November election will also be asking a number of contentious statewide questions. “People are going to be throwing bricks at the TV this year,” La Plante said, meaning voters are already going to be overwhelmed. La Plante reasoned, then, why should the City be overwhelming Greeley voters this year with added local issues when the City could wait till next year. On top of these reasons, La Plante also pointed to the fact that the late publishing of the notice added legal issues to placing the tax extension questions on this November’s election ballot. “That’s my position” La Plante finished, “is that you’re better off doing it in a year when people are going to be focusing on local issues.”
Mayor Gates, after thanking La Plante, said, “our city attorney is aware of your concern as well.”
The next speaker was Sherrie Peif. Peif is a local reporter who has covered Greeley, Weld County and Colorado for a number of years. Additionally, Peif was also on the Citizens’ Capital Facilities Committee that provided feedback and recommendations on the two taxes. Peif complemented City staff, the City Manager and Finance Director Runkle.Though Peif said she would usually rather see government spend money where it has it, she concluded that “in this particular situation, we are growing, and there are thigns this town has to do in order to stay alive, and [the Quality of Life Tax] is one of them.” Peif closed by saying she believes the City can get residents to support this tax extension and vote “Yes” on it in the November elections.
Bill Gillard then came up to speak. Gillard lamented on the different taxes Greeley has, comparing it to his time living in California. But his main concern was with the expansion of the definition of uses for the Quality of Life Tax. “You took $8.2 million of our tax money,” Gillard said, “and gave it to the schools, to do their fields . . . That is double taxation, to me.” For Gillard, the issue with the definition is that it’s too vague and will allow the City to change the purpose of the tax later down the road as it sees fit.
Gillard also believed that the City should wait until another year to vote on this tax, especially given the fact it doesn’t expire until 2022. Also of concern for Gillard was that dozens of Greeley residents he’d surveyed on these proposed tax extension knew nothing of them. It’s Gillard’s worry, then, that the tax may be passed now and voters down the road will not truly understand what it’s all about until it’s too late.
The last thing that Gillard took issue with was the fact that tonight was not technically an official hearing due to the notice not being printed in time. Mayor Gates informed Gillard that Council was going to schedule an official hearing for September 7th. Council decided to hold public input tonight anyway, though, since people had come to speak on the matter before continuing the public input at the September 7thspecial meeting. Gillard was not fully satisfied, stating, “Who’s gonna be there—besides me?”
Former Greeley Mayor Tom Norton came to the podium next to speak. Norton first praised the Citizens’ Capital Facilities Committee, then said he disagreed with the previous speaker, Bill Gillard. In defense of the tax, Norton said he thought the definitions the committee came away with were clear and simple. He challenged those who disagreed to go to the City’s website (greeleygov.com) and see for themselves how specific the definitions are.
Norton went on to say that he thinks “[t]he changes in definition . . . are very appropriate.” As someone who spent eight years working for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Norton feels he has roots in transportation issues and knowledge. He said he feels that transportation issues are also quality of life and public safety issues. How long it takes you to get across town—whether you can make it to work on time—that’s a quality of life issue; and, dangerous intersections are themselves an obvious public safety issue.
The former mayor also said that transportation costs quickly add up. That’s why he advocated for this year’s CDOT ballot question being passed, so that the City would receive as much help as possible to get some transportation projects up and running. “Yes, we’re growing,” Norton said, “but that growth, it pays for its own way. But it kind of pays for its own way after it’s been here by growing and paying into the tax system.” Norton stressed that it’s “critically important” to get projects in motion sooner rather than later so that the City is not rushing to get things done all at once later down the road. And even if the tax extension doesn’t pass this year, Norton suggested that at least residents would at least now have an idea of what the City feels it needs, of what the Quality of Life would go towards and of everything else about the tax to prepare them to vote on it again next year.
In closing, Norton said, “I would urge you to support this, to make it go forward, to get the dollars out there so we can satisfy the things that our citizens really need and want.”
Pastor Steven Grant of Destiny Christian Center was the final resident to provide public input on this hearing tonight. He said that he wasn’t here tonight to speak either for or against either tax extension, but only to address the timing of these questions being placed on this November’s election ballot. Grant first spoke of bond issues on the statewide ballot that, if passed, might be used to help with construction along Highway 34 instead of using City tax money to do so. The pastor also brought up Amendment 73 that will be on the ballot this November, suggesting if this state amendment were to pass a lot of cities could experience rather major funding issues. Finally, Grant talked about the possibility of Amendment 97 passing (changing the distance oil and gas operations must be “set back” from numerous civilian structures). Grant claimed that according to the Weld County Assessor’s Office, “53% of tax revenue for Greeley comes from oil revenues.” Grant warned that the City is “working under assumption oil money will always be here, oil employees will always live here paying tax, and new people will come here.” Overall, Grant said, his concern was with the timing of these questions possibly being placed on this year’s November ballot given all of the additional sate questions that will be asked this November as well.
There were no other residents present who wished to give further public input on this hearing.
Mayor Gates then offered time for Council to discuss the hearing that was presented tonight.
Councilmember Robb Casseday was first to take up the opportunity for discussion. Casseday first thanked the Citizens’ Capital Facilities Committee for all of their hard work. Casseday said of this committee’s work, “I don’t feel at all that the city has not been represented.” The councilmember went on to warn against waiting to see what happens with statewide questions on this year’s November ballots, as some of the residents who’d given public input had seemed to suggest. “I think that would be a huge mistake,” Casseday said. Casseday pointed to momentum the City has recently built up in terms of transportation work and the need for this tax going into the future given how much Greeley has and continues to grow. The fact was also mentioned by Casseday that City Council and City staff have been working on this possible tax extension for months, and that all of the information and discussions had tonight were not new to the Council. In his closing statement, Casseday said, “Let’s not sit back on our heels, let’s move forward with this. I’m gonna support this 100%.”
After Casseday was finished speaking, Councilmember Suniga took time to speak. Suniga said she agreed with Casseday that the City shouldn’t wait and should move forward and try to get this tax extension question on the ballot for this year’s November election. A lot of information was presented tonight, Suniga said, but the information that stood out the most to her was something Greeley resident and veteran reporter Sherrie Peif mentioned during the public input portion nearer to the beginning of tonight’s meeting: Peif said Greeley has three intersections that are considered the most dangerous in the entire state of Colorado. “That is a public safety issue,” Suniga said. “And I would almost feel, as a councilmember who serves our community, who serves the residents of this community, I would feel negligent not to move forward, to be able to resolve that.” The councilwoman went on to talk about the possibility of residents dying or families losing loved ones and how much she personally would hate to see that happen again as it has a number of times in the past already. Suniga, in her final remark, said, “I support going forward now.”
Mayor Gates spoke last. Gates said he felt the committee that was formed “had diversity of opinion and that [the City] didn’t stack this committee with like-minded individuals.” Gates thanked the committee for their seven months of work and for all of the feedback and recommendations they provided the City with.
Gates when on to say, “When I vote [during September 7th special meeting], I’m gonna ask myself three questions with regard to QoL and public safety tax extensions: did we as a city do what we said we were gonna do? Did we get a good return on our investment? Do we have solid plans for future projects?” The mayor said these three questions would make up the basic criteria for whether or not to vote in favor of either tax extension. “That being said,” Gates clarified, “I would certainly lean towards voting for both [tax extensions].”
As previous speakers had before him, Gates also brought up the fact that the intersection at Highway 34 and 35th Avenue and the intersection at Highway 34 and 47th Avenue are considered two of the most dangerous intersections in all of Colorado. Fixing this problem, Gates said, “is going to be well beyond the scope of what general fund dollars could ever handle.” Lastly, Gates said, “We’re growing, and even if we wanted to grind that to a screeching halt we couldn’t.”
After the mayor finished, a motion was made to vote on whether or not to continue this public hearing and final vote to a September 7th special meeting. Votes were casted and the motion passed by a vote of 7-0.
- Proposing Placing A Tax Extension Questions on This Year’s November Election Ballot -
(Click here to learn about the presentation that was given by the City’s Finance Director for this hearing)
Greeley’s City Finance Director Victoria Runkle provided Council and the Council Chambers with another presentation, this one lasting 13 minutes.
When Runkle finished, Mayor John Gates asked his fellow councilmembers if they had any questions. None of the councilmembers did.
The mayor then opened the hearing up to public input.
First to speak was Sherrie peif, a long-time local reporter in the area and was a member on the Citizens’ Capital Facilities Committee. Peif said that in addition to supporting the Quality of Life Tax she also supported this tax, the Public Safety Sales Bond Tax. The veteran reporter said that she would even go as far as suggesting the City no longer placing an expiration date on this tax and just keeping it around forever. “I think the most improtatnt in in our community is our public safety,” Peif claimed. Peif said that she recently was in need of public safety services, and having received such adequate and sufficient service she would like to see such exceptional service continue long into the future. Also, Peif mentioned her support for rebuilding Fire Station 2 along 23rdAvenue. Peif said that the “Exit on 23rdave has to be switched around given nuisance of yield and increased traffic along 23rd.” It wouldn’t be possible to complete such a rebuild without the Public Safety Sales Bond Tax, Peif claimed. “I support this tax,” Peif said in closing, “and I hope you do as well.”
Next to speak was former Greeley Mayor Tom Norton. Norton brought up an important aspect of this tax that no one else had mentioned to this point. The former mayor said that a lot of money to pay for public safety comes in the form of grants from the state and federal governments. These grants, Norton explained, are very much dependent upon the amount of effort a City demonstrates in addressing their public safety needs. Essentially, the more Greeley dedicates funds to public safety, the more likely the state and federal government are to step in and offer assistance in the form of grants. For this reason, the former mayor feels it’s important to gather as much money as possible so that a) the federal and state government will notice the City’s commitment, and b) the federal and state grants the City will receive then will be the maximum amount the grants could be. Addressing the Council, Norton said if the City passes the Public Safety Sales Bond Tax, “you’ll have a city that will be a star in northern Colorado” and unlike any others in surrounding areas.
Norton stressed that this type of thinking is attributed to good management strategies and techniques on behalf of City staff. The former mayor praised City Manager Roy Otto, Finance Director Victoria Runkle and Assistant City Manager Becky Safarikfor their leadership on this issue. Norton said that these individuals working within our City government have a deep understanding of how grants work and how the City can maximize the level of these grants the City may receive. Construction on the Highway 34 and Highway 85 junction (sometimes referred to as spaghetti junction), according to the former mayor, could reach a price tag as high as $220 million. No city as small as Greeley would be able to just hand over such a tremendous amount of money. That’s why, as the former mayor was iterating, it’s especially important for the City to be able to get grants to help pitch in on such large projects. To maximize such a “pitching-in” the City needs to be showing an effort to work on such projects and needs to have money down in order to even get them started. Norton finished by stating that large transportation projects will “take some sharing of dollars, and you don’t get those by sitting and saying please, you get them by being part of the solution.”
As Norton wrapped up and returned to his seat, Bill Gillard stepped to the podium. “I agree with this tax,” Gillard said plainly. Gillard said policing and firefighting are essential to a city. It was suggested by Gillard, though, that the City make the definition for Quality of Life Tax purely transportation related, nothing for parks and recreation, just the entire tax to be used on transportation.
The final public speaker for this hearing was local attorney Ann Le Plante. “Well, we’re back to the same problem,” La Plante said. Le Plante’s input revolved around her earlier concern that the City was not following certain notification laws and could end up in trouble down the road if they still decide to place these questions on the ballot anyway. “And what are you gonna do” Le Plante asked the Council, “if you get it on the ballot and you’re sewed, or it passes and you’re sewed?” The worry of Le Plante was that the City would not be in compliance with rules and regulations if the decision was made to go ahead and place either of these tax extension questions on this November’s election ballot.
Le Plante also stated that she agreed with others who had provided public input tonight addressing concerns about the timing of having these questions on this November’s election ballot. Pointing to Amendment 97 and Amendment 113 on this year’s statewide ballot, Le Plante suggested next year, during a City Council election year, would be a better time to have these questions on the ballot. Speaking to the possibility of Amendment 97 passing, Le Plante said, “I don’t support that, and I’m certainly hoping that it doesn’t pass. But I think you might look at things differently if that passes.”
No one else in the chambers wished to address the Council after Le Plante was finished.
Public input was then closed and Mayor Gates opened the floor for deliberation and discussion among Council.
Councilmember Michael Fitzsimmons was first to speak. Fitzsimmons asked City Attorney Doug Marek what his opinion was on the issue of being one day late of the ten officially needed. Marek said his beliefs were expressed in Mayor Gates’ report made earlier in the meeting. The mayor suggested City Council would introduce the hearing and open the hearing for public input tonight, then, “In an abundance of caution” the Council will go forward with a final vote at the special meeting on September 7th. The city attorney offered to talk to any of the councilmembers one-on-one or in a meeting with all of the Council prior to or at the beginning of the September 7thspecial meeting.
Councilmember Suniga then address Finance Director Runkle. Suniga wished to know if Runkle could provide a ballpark estimate as to how much the City could expect in grants and other funding from the state and federal government.
Runkle repeated her earlier statement about CDOT likely being able to cover 50% of any costs for things such as the possible interchanges along Highway 34. Also mentioned by Runkle was the Higher 34 and Highway 85 junction, which she said CDOT talked with the City about doing work on. In such an instance, though, where the project is estimated to run between $200-$250 million, no amount of grants from the state or federal government would be enough to help the City cover the costs. As Runkle said, the City just “[doesn’t] have that kind of money.”
There were no more questions or comments nor discussion from Council.
A move was then made to continue public hearing and schedule final reading for a special meeting on September 7that 9 a.m.
City Clerk Betsy Holder addressed the Council for this short hearing. Holder was seeking approval for the city clerk, herself, to be directed to certify both the Quality of Life Tax question and the Public Safety Sales Bond Tax question with the Weld County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. (Cities within Weld County coordinate their elections with Weld County. This is because Colorado, Weld County and Greeley all have their election on the same day—as is the case in all states, counties and cities throughout the country—and so Greeley certifies their election with Weld County who then takes and certifies all off the ballots with Colorado. The deadline for Greeley’s City Clerk to do this would be September 7th by 5 p.m.)
Holder said the City Clerk’s Office was recommending approval of this measure and that she would be happy to answer any questions.
Mayor John Gates looked to Council for questions. No councilmembers had any and so the mayor opened the floor for deliberation and discussion.
Motion was quickly made to adopt the measure. Vote was then taken and the measure passed by a vote of 7-0.