Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Salida City Council (SCC) held a combined work session and regular meeting on Wednesday July 5, because of the Fourth of July holiday.

At their work session, the SCC heard presentations from Xcel Energy representatives on their Partners in Energy (PIE) program, and from City Administrator Drew Nelson on compensation plans for future elected officials, in an effort to improve recruitment and retention.

At their regular meeting, the SCC considered and approved Ordinance 2023-10 upon public hearing and second reading, and also Resolutions 2023-29 and 30. In addition, two items were pulled from the consent agenda for discussion before being combined and approved: approval of a change order for the new fire station, and a contract with Avalanche Excavation for the replacement of a hot water pipe for the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center.

Partners in Energy (PIE)

Ashley Valdez and Imogene Ainsworth from Xcel Energy made the presentation on the PIE program, which will work in conjunction with Salida’s Energy Action Plan, the culmination of a couple years’ worth of work with the city’s Sustainability Committee and Colorado Communities for Climate Action. (A complete version of the Energy Action Plan can be found here.)

As Ainsworth explained, the PIE is a program that Xcel has developed with 35 other communities around Colorado and other states in which it operates, in order to help these communities make the transition to greener energy technology and protocols. Salida’s goal, as outlined in the presentation, is to “reduce energy-related carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 from a 2021 baseline and achieve net-zero carbon energy use by 2050.”

This is a goal that Ainsworth characterized as “realistically ambitious” in scope, and which will entail education and energy-efficiency program participation from both residential and commercial property owners.

Colorado solar panels. Image courtesy of Pivot Energy.

In response to questions from Council members, Valdez said that, while she could not comment “exactly” on other utilities’ plans for transitioning to greener energy technology, “Xcel Energy has a goal of being a carbon-free electrical provider by 2050”, and that the company was closing its coal-fired plants, in addition to working with natural gas provider Atmos Energy on the PIE planning.

During discussion, Nelson said that if the SCC wanted to push forward with its energy plan, “You will need to find funding for [city staff] positions. You will have to get someone out there to push it and do the trainings for builders and architects or getting info to homeowners.

There will be a cost to it, we don’t have a lot of funding coming in for that. The [plastic] bag fee won’t cover it – you will be needing to staff up for climate-related positions. We don’t have a ton of expertise in the field.”

“If there’s any impact economically for next year, we need to start planning for it in the budget,” said Treasurer Merrell Bergin.

“I don’t think for next year, but it’s coming,” Nelson replied.

Retention and recruitment for elected officials

Nelson went on to lead discussion on retention and recruitment for Council members, explaining that he had done “a cursory look at what other communities offer, both in monetary terms and in terms of benefits… I just looked at peer communities – Salida is on the low end for compensation.” He then outlined a number of steps to take to make Council service more attractive and attainable, including health plan options as well as pay increases for the mayor and council members.

In addition, he said, “another couple other things we talked about is making meetings more accessible and comfortable for staff and [SCC] – making meals/snacks available, because these meetings are at dinner time; varying meeting times so that people who work at night can come; having ASL interpreters, Spanish translation, and more ADA-compliant accessibility through the website. I would love to have a robust conversation about what would make meetings and compensation better for you.”

Council member Dominique Naccarato pointed out for the record that “If you put [these changes] into an ordinance now, it would apply to the next council,” not the current one.

“I would propose raising the mayor’s pay to $1,000, and council members to $750 [per month],” said member Alisa Pappenfort, citing averages from peer communities. “We’ve been good about raising everyone else’s salaries except our own – raising salaries would attract a more diverse group of candidates.”

“Before I came on council, the demographics were people who were on Medicare,” said Mayor Dan Shore: “I would like to see Council demographics more closely reflect the demographics of the county – it would be nice to get younger people on Council.”

“Do we pay our Treasurer anything?” asked member Jane Templeton, referring to there being no mention of this in the work packet. (Salida’s Treasurer position is an elected, rather than staff, position, like a handful of other statutory cities. It is a paid position, currently on a par with council members.) “The Treasurer should get the same rate as Council members,” said member Mike Pollock.

“Childcare would be a way to help encourage a different demographic,” suggested Naccarato at the end of the work session. “I will look into it, but increased compensation would enable people to pay for childcare,” was Nelson’s response.

Fire station and hot water line cost increases discussed 

During the regular meeting, member Harald Kasper asked that item five on the consent agenda, the change order for the fire station design, be discussed separately.  “After I saw the dollar amount of the change for design for the fire station, I just want to make sure that someone can put the changes of the planning costs into context for me – it was a big enough number that I wanted to talk about it.” (The current contract amount with Neenan Archistruction, as approved by Council on May 17, 2022, is $762,945. The proposed change order is for $149,370, bringing the total design cost to $912,315.)

“We went down the path of [a geothermal exchange for the fire station],” explained Donna Smith, a vice president with Neenan Archistruction. “When we do that, we design the size of the mechanical room, the radiant heat in the floor and the bays, and when that doesn’t work out, we have to go back and redesign…all of that takes time. The comparison of design costs to construction costs is standard – we wanted to do one change order rather than go back and do a lot.”

Pollock seconded Kasper’s call for clarification, and further specifically cited a concern that the current plan did not call for perimeter insulation on the building slab. “I would like to take the slab issue back to the team and then get back to you,” said Smith.

Before the motion to combine and approve the consent agenda, Pollock also asked for discussion on the Avalanche Excavation contract. Information in the packet had indicted that only a single bid was received for this budgeted line item. Parks and Recreation Director Diesel Post explained that the new hot water line to the Aquatic Center “will get us across Holman Avenue. That area is really close to development – we’ve seen plans from the hospital, we wanted to try to get in there now before it’s developed and replace the line – it’s going to be much easier to do it now when it’s a vacant lot.”

After citizen comment, the SCC went on to the final reading and public hearing for Ordinance 2023-10, amending Chapter 8, Title XIII of the Municipal Code on Inclusionary Housing (IH). Community Development Director Bill Almquist explained that the amendments were aimed at “cleaning up language on income caps, allowing people with a slighter higher income to qualify” for IH. After the public hearing and Council discussion, the motion to approve Ordinance 2023-10 passed unanimously.

Council sets Inclusionary Housing (IH) rental and sales price limits

The SCC then turned to consideration of Resolution 2023-29, adopting IH rental sales and housing prices, and setting maximum price caps for the year. Rents and prices are to be based on the just updated Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) data. Resolution 2023-30, adopting the City of Salida’s Energy Action Plan was brought up for a vote from the preceding work session discussion. Motions to approve both resolutions passed unanimously.

Council Reports

During Council Reports, several members mentioned their recent attendance at the Colorado Municipal League conference, pointing to seminars on training police as “guardians vs. warriors” and combatting homelessness as particular highlights.

Templeton highlighted the “Zero Waste” presentation, and also urged SCC members to check out a recent This Old House magazine article on “Projects That Pay You Back” for residential energy use planning. Pollock gave a shout out to the outdoor pool working group: “I told them that there’s so much going on with the firehouse and stuff, we probably won’t get to it this year – but I promised that I would bring it up.”