Public Works Collaborates with West Mineral Neighborhoods

collaboration

by Robin Swartzbacker

You may have noticed that things are changing on West Mineral Avenue by South Platte Canyon Drive. When you drive by there for the first time please be observant for lane changes and a speed limit reduction. These changes came from a several month process where Public Works was deeply engaged with the residents of the W Mineral neighborhoods. The project, entitled Provide a safe environment for all users of the Mineral Avenue corridor between Platte Canyon Road and Polo Ridge Drive was started because the people had voiced their safety concerns about this particular area. Together Public Works and the neighbors collaborated to define the users, purpose, and goals of the venture.

One of the first things done was the creation of a webpage on the city’s website where residents could stay updated on the project, a central location for communication. Aaron Heumann, Littleton’s Traffic Engineer, stated during his presentation to the City Council on September 27 (click here to view his presentation, starts at 1.11.50), “We engaged with residents early and often best we could.”

The process started by meeting with the residents last January to learn face to face what their issues and concerns were.  From community meetings, the webpage, emails, and phone calls solutions were shaped from the feedback provided by the people.  In fact, several of the potential solutions came directly from the neighbors. The final implementation strategy came after several rounds of discussion and feedback. It was refreshing to hear the city didn’t go into the project with a predetermined answer but instead first listened to the citizens and partnered with them to create the resolutions after much collaboration.

In the beginning of the presentation to city council, Acting City Manager and Public Works Director Mark Relph stated they “would like to replicate this in other parts of the city and especially the citizen engagement.”  As Aaron Heumann spoke, he reiterated his desire several times for using this process of community involvement too.  Personally I have heard from a resident who participated in this process who is very pleased with it. Nice job Public Works.

2017 Budget: City Council Spends Even More of Our Money

money

City Council spent the better part of three nights this week discussing the city’s budget for 2017. The good news is that revenues are projected to track ahead of expenditures for the next five years according to staff. The bad news is the Capital Projects Fund will be spent down in the near future requiring new revenue sources.

The budgeting practice is to transfer 17% (this equals two months of operating expenses) of our General Fund budget to the Capital Projects Fund at the end of each year. That money is then used to fund capital projects. If the General Fund balance is not sufficient to transfer the 17% then the dollars for projects are diminished. In the near future the dollars to transfer from the General Fund to the Capital Projects Fund will not be sufficient to meet the needs. But is the problem really all about revenues or is there another possible answer?

If you correlate the city’s budget to your own budget it would look like this. Your income exceeds your expenditures but you know you will need a new roof in two years and you will need new tires for your car next year. You could continue to spend as always hoping that more income is earned or you could start saving for the new roof and tires. That may require giving up something – vacationing in Colorado instead of traveling Europe, more entertaining at home rather than going out – you get the picture. You start cutting expenditures to prepare for the future expenses that you know are coming.

But there was no talk of cutting expenditures in the three nights of discussion. Comments were made that the future “problem” is a revenue problem; more is needed. Littleton’s budget in 2014 was $52,578,078 and is projected to be 62,747,030 in 2017 – an increase of 10,168,952 or approximately 19% in 4 years! Do we really have a revenue problem? If so, how much is enough if 19% growth in 4 years isn’t enough to keep up with expenditures?

At the end of the meeting, acting city manager Mark Relph addressed the path forward saying they have time. Programs and services need to be evaluated and they (council) needed to look inward. We hope that means taking a good look at the expenditures before making a decision to increase taxes, add taxes, or ask for a bond issue. Making our community safe by providing for police, fire, and well-maintained infrastructure is exactly why we pay taxes. They are the necessities. Before the “frills” are budgeted the necessities have to be provided for – if the frills are desired then ask the voters if they want to fund them!

Traffic in Littleton–A Conversation with our Acting City Manager

traffic2

Mark Relph began the evening by providing a brief history of his experience.  He is a Professional Engineer and has been in city administration for the past 20 years.   He was a Community Development Director in Delta, CO and that’s when he decided he preferred Public Works.  He has worked in California and Washington.  Coming to Littleton was coming home.

He talked about the state requirements for growth management in Washington and although it sounded like a bad idea when he first heard about it he has decided that it really was good.  Having the state mandate forced the conversation about growth in the community and they had to document how they were going to handle the projected growth.  The state reviewed the plans.

The biggest issue in the near term for Littleton is traffic and the long-term maintenance of our infrastructure.  This is not just a Littleton problem but also a problem across the nation.  Currently we have been moving the excess General Fund dollars to the Capital Fund at the end of each year.  In three or four years there will not be enough dollars in the Capital Fund to manage the pavement maintenance that will be needed.   He said they couldn’t talk about new funding options until they look internally for solutions.

Some examples of concerns expressed by Relph:

  • Signal Systems – cant’ get parts anymore for some – they are just old.
  • Broadway – can link through the signal progression but difficult to do with the traffic controllers we have.
  • Best Management Practices – the signal poles should be inspected every five years for failure (based on wind and load factors). This has never been done in Littleton and they can fail.
  • We are way behind on a signal system for Littleton
  • Transportation Master Plan – it has never been done
  • Complan – it is thin at best. We have never taken the plan and tested the transportation network – that should be a standard practice – it has never been modeled.  Within five years we should have a transportation master plan.  We are in a bad place to manage growth and development.
  • Level of Service (LOS) – A grading system for traffic flow with A being free moving and F being standing still. If we had a standard developers would have to meet the standard or mitigate the problems.
  • Santa Fe – that requires a conversation with CDOT and Arapahoe County
  • Sterling Ranch- a lot of traffic will be generated by Sterling Ranch
  • Ensor Property – there’s a developer pursuing the north thirty acres (they have an option on the property and they are looking at what they can do). They can’t do much unless the city takes on that intersection and CDOT won’t step up.  $120,000,000.00 will be needed.
  • Relph said he would be proposing to council that they begin the Federal process – the PEL – Preliminary Engineering and he forgot what the L stands for. This would be the environmental work that needs to be done first before a fix for that intersection is built.
  • Impact Fees – they are inadequate. He would like the code to state that the LOS can’t be degraded on Mineral and Santa Fe.
  • Need to partner with Arapahoe County and CDOT – they know that Santa Fe is a problem.
  • We need to put money into the Capital Fund for 2018.

Polo Ridge and Platte Canyon

Relph and the city traffic engineer (first one on staff in ten years) have come up with a few solutions to the traffic problems on Mineral between Santa Fe and Platte Canyon.  He admitted that there was some bad planning involved contributing to the problem.  They have offered a three-phase plan to help.

1st Phase – restripe the lanes making the three lanes into two lanes for movement and the outside lanes for turn lanes.  They will create a wider median in the middle of Mineral that will help those turning to enter traffic.  There will be deflector posts to visually protect the left turn lane.

2nd Phase – A double left hand turn on Platte Canyon – that will improve the LOS.

3rd Phase – move the bike trails away from Mineral and deeper into the neighborhood and provide a raised pedestrian crossing.

Relph told us that traffic signals could lead to higher traffic accidents.  There are a series of tests to determine if a traffic signal is warranted.  (The series of tests determine if a signal is “warranted” – the tests are called warrants.)

He thought you had to have the citizens help to define the problems.

At this point the audience asked questions and raised concerns.

  • The bike lane on Mineral just east of Jack Ass Hill is only about 300 feet long. Can it be extended in order to get those that want to go north on Jack Ass Hill out of the Mineral traffic?  He said he would look into.
  • Citizen mentioned that a “chunk” of concrete feel down from the RR overpass onto Mineral tying up traffic for over 90 minutes. This person was unable to get to the Mineral Station Plan meeting as a result.
  • South Park residents asked for speed bumps to discourage traffic on Mineral from cutting through their neighborhood. Many of those drivers are speeding.  Relph said there are several different ways to calm traffic.  You can do that by narrowing the street, speed bumps (which can be noisy and how many is too many).  In his previous experience they would put in speed bumps for 6 months after a petition demonstrated a 70% approval from the neighbors.  After the 6 months another petition was circulated and if 70% approval were still present the bumps would be come permanent.   He said the city has a brochure on different calming techniques and encourage the citizens to look into them.
  • It was suggested to reduce the bike lanes on the north side of Mineral – there are trails off the street that the bikes could use.
  • The traffic circle on Elati north of Runyon has a citizen concerned about the safety of the kids. She did not like the traffic circle there – Relph said he did not like the way they are done in Littleton.
  • Angelo’s Road – There will be a right in and right out of Angelo’s from Santa Fe Drive.
  • Broadway and Dry Creek – the lines on the road have been changed due to the construction and it is not clear which lines are the right ones as the old blends in with the new when it’s raining at night.
  • Bowles and Santa Fe – Relph said that is an easier problem to solve than Santa Fe and Mineral. But an environmental study was required.
  • Windermere Dead-End by the Highline Canal – Relph called it poor planning. A solution might require the purchase of property.  Could allow local traffic during the day and closed during rush hours.
  • Last mile of County Line near Phillips – Relph said it would take the city, county and Centennial to widen the remainder of County Line and there is no funding. There was a request for a traffic signal at Phillips and County Line and Relph said it does not “warrant” a traffic signal.
  • The flashing left turn light at County Line by the Harley Davidson – a request was made for a turn light instead of the flashing light. Someone else thought there was a dedicated turn light in addition to the flashing light.

Bridges Burned to Get the Trailmark Fire Station

By Juan Lopez

Note:  Trailmark deserves good fire protection.  This article is not about that fact.  Rather this piece is about the process.

Before Littleton Fire Chief Christopher Armstrong arrived in 2013, Littleton signed a $312,000 contract with West Metro Fire Rescue to provide fire engine and ambulance response to Trailmark.  Trailmark, a part of the city of Littleton, is a housing community south of C470, off of Wadsworth.  Soon after he arrived, Chief Armstrong dissolved this contract and stopped all West Metro aid responses.  Instead of considering a joint fire station or agency consolidations, which would improve service and reduce cost, Chief Armstrong has burnt bridges with both the West Metro Fire Rescue (Jefferson County) and the South Metro Fire Rescue (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties).  See Lopez’s article in the July 18 issue of this newsletter.

Littleton Fire Rescue is now pursuing taking over contracts for fire protection in Jefferson County neighborhoods that are currently held by West Metro.  Both fire departments face equally difficult standards of coverage in Trailmark, Roxborough and the Lockheed Martin Waterton Facility.  But instead of working across jurisdictional boundaries as had been previously done, Chief Armstrong cut ties.

Construction has begun to build Station 19 in Trailmark at a cost of $2.6 million.  Of that, $1.7 million comes from the city of Littleton.  Annual operating costs for a three-firefighter, paramedic engine (that cannot do interior firefighting or searches until a fourth firefighter arrives) will cost an overall $1.5 million. The city of Littleton will pay for $800,000 of that.  This will cost Littleton taxpayers $800,000 per year to save $312,000 per year.

A far better solution would have been to expand the bridge built by former Chief John Mullin, and strategically locate a new fire station along Wadsworth with shared cost and full staffing for an engine and ambulance split between Littleton, Lockheed Martin and West Metro.  This would have provided a more efficient and timely response of both fire departments’ resources to a larger community.  That kind of arrangement could also have opened the door to a full fire district consolidation.   The benefits of that are far reaching, especially as a long-term solution.

Littleton currently has eight fire stations compared to double the resources at South Metro and West Metro.  Both of them have 17 stations.  Littleton only has five ambulances and at times none of them are available because of high call volume.  A consolidation with either Metro fire department would create a pool of 15 or more ambulances to share.

In May, 2016 both South Metro and West Metro were directed by their boards to evaluate the feasibility of consolidating.  Littleton remains an island, and is not a part of those discussions.

If you are concerned, please email the seven members of City Council.  Their email addresses are at littletongov.org.

References

https://www.littletongov.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=6015

https://www.littletongov.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=6046

http://www.trailmark.org/uploads/3/9/0/8/39089355/station_19_fact_sheet.pdf

http://www.denverpost.com/2014/01/21/new-littleton-fire-chief-seeks-to-improve-morale/

Littleton Fire Rescue May Not Respond the Way You Need

Guest Contributor Juan Lopez

When you call 911 in Littleton with a medical emergency, an ambulance may not come. When you call for a fire engine, there may not be enough firefighters to enter your building. Read on for why.

Before Littleton Fire Chief Christopher Armstrong’s 2013 arrival, Littleton had shared fire and rescue with South Metro Fire Rescue (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties) and somewhat with West Metro Fire Rescue (Jefferson County). If Littleton did not have the closest unit, the closest of the others would respond. And vice versa. Statistically Littleton received more aid than it was giving. The obvious explanation was not having enough resources to manage the volume of calls in Littleton.

But when Armstrong became Fire Chief, closest unit dispatching stopped. Even if a South Metro or West Metro fire engine or ambulance is just around the corner from a Littleton resident who needs help, it will not be sent.

In mid-2014 Chief Armstrong developed a pet project called a “Quick Car.” This is a concept being abolished by most who have tried it–due to inefficiency. Quick Cars are light duty pickup trucks, outfitted with medical equipment and basic tools, and staffed by a paramedic and a firefighter. The most recent two units cost the taxpayers $160,000 and only one is being used.

The Quick Car backfills empty stations when the engine or ambulance usually assigned there is gone. That means your emergency response may be a pickup truck with no water or hose. Littleton is the only fire department in the metro area that does this.

Furthermore, if a Littleton resident calls 911 for a medical emergency, a Quick Car—which cannot transport the sick or injured–may respond rather than an ambulance. This is even though we know from the Littleton Fire Rescue that 88% of all medical calls in Littleton require ambulance transport to the hospital.

Chief Armstrong’s Plan A staffing model for the Quick Cars will cost $667,539 even though the service cannot put out fires or transport a person to the hospital. The money to purchase these vehicles and staff them is wasteful spending.

Littleton is also the only metro fire department not pursuing the National Fire Protection Association recommendation of staffing all fire engines with four firefighters. Littleton first sends an engine of three fire fighters, followed by four which arrive statistically three minutes later. That three-minutes delays fire suppression and searching for potential victims. And it increases the price of fire insurance.

Littleton’s 2015 strategic plan online states all of this, even about how they need four firefighters before they will go inside a burning building, but only staff fire engines with three. The Chief’s bad decisions are risking our safety and survival.

I’m fearful of not having an ambulance or adequately-staffed fire engine to help me.
.

Follow the Rules Please! – Trailmark

The Charter requires the city council to approve an annual appropriation bill (our city’s budget) each year by Sept. 15.  The City Manager can make some adjustments to the approved budget without consulting the council but there are other adjustments he cannot make without the consent of council.  At the time the 2016 budget was approved by council Michael Penny and Debbie Brinkman had been meeting with the TrailMark HOA telling them a fire station was coming and the pair had been negotiating with Lockheed Martin to provide fire and emergency services to the aerospace company located outside the city limits.  You have to wonder why both Penny and Brinkman, not once, brought up the funding of a new fire station during their extensive budget discussions prior to September 15th.

Early in December of 2015 several ordinances appeared on the council’s agenda for the funding of the new TrailMark Station 19.  It became obvious just how much work had been done towards the building of Station 19.  An agreement to provide fire and emergency services to Lockheed Martin had been negotiated and ready for approval, Golden Triangle Construction had responded to an RFP and staff was recommending that they be awarded the contract for the construction of Station 19, and several accounting maneuvers were presented for approval to loan money to accounts that were to be used to pay for the construction of Station 19 but did not have the funds to meet the construction costs.

At the December 1, 2015 council meeting Councilman Clark asked the Public Works Director, Mark Ralph, why he was spending any money on Station 19 prior to any council discussion or approval of a new fire station.  Ralph said he was directed to proceed by the City Manager.  We later learned that $85,000 was spent to get Station 19 off the ground – all before the council ever discussed the expenditure let alone whether or not they supported the additional fire station.

The Charter provides oversight of our budget to prevent this type of activity.  Section 75 of our Charter states that the council, after a public hearing, may insert new items of expenditures.  The addition of new budget expenditures is not within the city manager’s authority but yet he spent close to $85,000 without the full council’s knowledge or approval.  It appears that Brinkman and Bruce Stahlman were the only two councilors aware of the city manager’s activities.

If the Charter had been followed Michael Penny would have first gone to the council to discuss whether or not the council wanted to enter into an agreement with Lockheed Martin and/or build a new fire station in TrailMark.

Littleton Street Quality Rated Bad But Few Repairs in Sight

Street Chart
Littleton Community Scorecard 2015-16, p. 6

By Dave Schwan

Over just the past few years various city councils have approved quite a few high density apartment developments: Platte Canyon & Mineral, County Line near Santa Fe, Broadway & Dry Creek and more. These developments have added significant new residents and their vehicles being driven on city streets. Traffic and street maintenance have been top concerns for Littleton residents for years and yet council has been more concerned with increasing compensation, adding employees and increasing the frequency of the Littleton Report than maintaining the streets and dealing with the ever worsening traffic.

In the 2014 Littleton Resident Survey, respondents indicated that traffic and street maintenance were the among the most pressing issues facing the city and had become even greater issues since the 2012 survey.

The great need for street maintenance is supported by the 2015-16 Littleton Community Scorecard.   That report indicated that Littleton street pavement is among the worst in the state. Littleton ranked 4th lowest compared with 22 other selected cities in Colorado.  See above chart.

The Pavement Condition Report Index (PCI) is the industry standard for grading street quality. According to the report the goal should be from 70 to 75 PCI. Littleton’s streets rated 66, compared with Greenwood Village rated 78 & Centennial rated 75.

Yet, Littleton spends only about $1.4 million annually on street maintenance.  It would require $3.15 million annually to reach the industry standard and address a growing maintenance backlog. 41% of Littleton’s streets rated “fair” to “very poor.  That means that these roadways may require progressively heavier or thicker reconstruction which will be substantially more expensive.

Oddly, the city of Littleton has increased annual funding for street maintenance by just $400,000

  Instead the city is spending $6,610,090 on the following:

  • $1,687,000 to increase the city’s long-term total compensation plan
  • $50,000 to hire an assistant city attorney in addition to the current full-time attorney
  • $145,000 to double the number issues of the Littleton Report promotes how well city government is doing, and to develop an online newspaper
  • $465,000 for even more downtown “Wayfinding Signage”
  • $102,560 to hire a programmer/analyst for the Information Services Department
  • $126,810 to hire a system/database administrator for the Information Services Department
  • $68,140 to increase Human Resources staff
  • $2,305,000 to replace of existing portable and mobile radios for the police, fire and public works departments
  • $647,080 to add seven employees to staff Medic 10
  • $1,013,500 to fund fire projects

Reviewing the 2015 city general fund expenditures even parks & recreation rates greater spending than street maintenance.

Capture
Littleton Community Scorecard 2014-15

You might ask your council members, “What about our streets?” Go to littletongov.org for council member contact information.