BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
During the first week of March, the city councils of Cherry Hills Village and Greenwood Village were each poised to approve a second amended and restated intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Arapahoe County 911 Authority “to provide the Authority greater flexibility in operating in a quickly changing technological environment,” according to Shannon Chambers-Nelson, GV assistant city attorney.
The message from staff members to both GV and CHV’s city councils was that the revision would: 1) allow the Authority to apply for an increase in its allowed fee, which has been capped at $0.70 per month for 30 years, with permission from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Currently, a cap increase also requires the permission of two-thirds of the 19 municipalities and fire rescue/emergency service providers in the county (or 50 percent of the population), in addition to the PUC; and 2) remove the Authority’s restriction against lobbying.
The Authority is managed by a five-person board appointed by the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Four of the five members are nominated by first responders from local law enforcement and fire departments.
Michelle Tovrea, CHV police chief, told her city council that the Authority wants the lobbying restriction removed because it “believes it is vital that Arapahoe County is represented when legislation is presented that might impact 911 in Arapahoe County.” She also said, “The Authority does not anticipate hiring a lobbyist.”
Shannon Chambers-Nelson, GV assistant city attorney, delivered a similar message to her city council, saying, “The current IGA prohibits any lobbying by the Authority, which precludes board members from testifying before the legislature on matters that have significant impact on the Authority.”
Chief Tovrea presented the amended IGA at CHV’s city council meeting on March 3. Bruce Romero, executive director of the Authority, attended to answer questions. After listening to Tovrea’s explanation, Council Member Al Blum asked how the monthly fee was collected, which Romero answered. Mayor Pro Tem Katy Brown thanked Romero for attending the meeting and being available to answer questions. The IGA was approved unanimously.
In GV, after Chambers-Nelson presented the request for approval and introduced Romero, Council Member Dave Kerber opened the discussion, saying that the Authority was doing a good job. He asked Romero why they wanted to change the method for requesting approval for a rate increase. When Romero explained that the PUC process would take two to three years and included public input, Kerber responded, “As we’ve been fighting with TABOR (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) and fighting with governmental entities raising fees and raising this and raising that, the people seem to be left out…People ask, what do you spend all your money on?”
Romero explained that PUC approval is based strictly on need and that the rules are very specific, allowing spending only for the delivery and processing of 911 calls. He added, “We are currently operating on 1968 technology to deliver 911 calls. This is why 911 can’t find you but Uber can.”
Kerber asked Romero to tell him why his telephone bill for his private business in Aurora contained a $1.20 monthly city 911 fee. Romero told him that Aurora had chosen not to participate in the Authority, thus was not bound by the $0.70 limit.
Chambers-Nelson shared that GV had never signed the first amendment to the IGA. (CHV signed it in 2000).
Council Member Dave Bullock shared that he had read an email from Kerber earlier in the day (that was not included in the official documents for the meeting) and he agreed with Kerber, then suggested that the vote be deferred because he wanted “to understand this better before I would vote for it.”
Council Member Jerry Presley confirmed with Romero that if GV wanted the IGA amended, the Authority would have to start over with the legal counsels of the other 18 participants, then once they all agreed, go back to the other 18 city councils or governing bodies for approval.
Council Member Tom Dougherty said that he was familiar with 911 proceedings before the PUC” from his work as a private attorney (he is lead counsel for rural energy provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission Associates, Inc.) and “they are rigorous proceedings”, noting that requests are “very carefully vetted.”
After Bullock said he believes requests before the PUC “always gets approved. It’s almost like a rubber stamp,” Romero said, “I certainly don’t want to ask you to rubber stamp something that you don’t understand.”
After Kerber reminded everyone that GV had never signed the first amendment to the IGA, Romero remarked, “However, the City of Greenwood Village has benefited greatly from the 911 fund since that first IGA was put into place.” Mayor Lantz concurred, saying, “Absolutely. We have.”
On a motion from Bullock, seconded by Kerber, GV city council deferred approval of the second amendment to the 911 Authority IGA pending a study session on the issue on April 6. Mr. Romero agreed to return on that date.
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