City Council discusses new public park hours, oil and gas regulations and 2023 budget

As the entire nation spent Tuesday electing new officials, Burgdorf’s city council tended to its existing elected members and discussed new ordinances, regulations and next year’s budget. All board members were present except Mayor William Karspeck.

The first item on the agenda was a possible ordinance on the scheduling of public parks, open spaces and recreation areas. Police Chief Jim Anderson spoke to the council about the need for the order. He said transients and homeless people were starting to stay and sleep at night in Burgdorf’s public parks. Anderson said a man repeatedly stayed in a bathroom in Pioneer Park overnight. “He brought a griddle,” Anderson explained. The man went to the bathroom in the evening, before leaving early the next morning. The only reason it went public according to Anderson is because “someone found him in there cooking eggs” one morning.

Anderson went on to explain that Burgdorf police currently have no power to stop this type of behavior. Because of this, an ordinance has been proposed that would make the parks “closed” from dusk until dawn. This would apply unless a park has otherwise posted different hours of operation. One concern raised by the council was the unintended consequences this would have on late night dog walkers or early morning joggers. City Administrator Chris Kirk reassured council that the ordinance allowed people to walk alongside or through the parks at any time. Anderson echoed that sentiment, saying police would exercise discretion and that this order was about public safety and preventing vandalism. He also said Burgdorf is the only incorporated community in Larimer County without an ordinance limiting the hours of operation of public parks. The council will consider the ordinance at its next meeting on November 22.

The next point discussed was the possibility for the city of Burgdorf to withdraw from the family and medical leave insurance program (FAMLI). FAMLI was adopted by Colorado voters in 2020. The program is run by the state and funds family and medical leave for employees for up to 12 weeks beginning in 2024. Funding for the program is designed like any other insurance . Employees and employers pay a premium and are then insured by FAMLI whether or not they use the program. One of the exceptions of the program is that it is not required for independent contractors or local government employees.

Cindy Leach, director of finance and human resources for the city of Burgdorf, spoke to the council about the possibility of stepping down. “Our request is that we decline any participation,” Leach said. She explained that three options were available to the City of Burgdorf. They could choose to participate in the program, which would incur additional costs for the city’s finances, since employers contribute the same amount as employees. This additional cost would not bring any additional benefit to city employees because FAMLI pays the same amount regardless of the employer’s contribution.

The other option would be to opt out but administer the bonus on behalf of city employees. The last option is to opt out completely, this would still allow city employees to join the program, but they would be responsible for directly paying the premiums themselves. Leach argued that the full opt-out was the best option. To withdraw but continue to administer the program on behalf of city employees would create unnecessary risk, she said. “We take on that administrative responsibility.” In short, she says, “it’s something we don’t need to do.” The board decided to continue the discussion and to keep public comments open on the subject until the next board meeting.

The next step was to discuss potential oil and gas regulation in Burgdorf. Both Matt Foote and Sabrina Trask answered questions from the board about the complex nature of Colorado’s oil and gas regulations. Foote, a former senator from the Democratic state of Boulder now runs a law firm specializing in environmental and energy issues. Trask is responsible for planning and permits at the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which is part of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Trask answered many questions about the processes and procedures followed by COGCC. A prevailing theme was that there are no standard or regular oil or gas wells, usually they vary widely on a case-by-case basis. The council’s most pressing issues concerned the distance and measurement of setbacks for the wells. Two thousand feet is the closest standard used by the state, but this can vary depending on location and where measurements are taken from.

Discussion of potential oil and gas regulation in Burgdorf has been ongoing for some time now and is the result of Senate Bill 19-181. Senate Bill 19-181 allowed local jurisdictions to impose additional regulations on the oil and gas industry. Kirk explained that if Burgdorf goes ahead with regulations beyond what the state requires, Burgdorf will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing any additional laws or regulations. Both Trask and Foote confirmed this by stating that the COGCC’s authority is limited and would not be able to enforce local regulations. The board committed to continuing to explore options and encouraged the public to bring forward any concerns or comments.

After a brief five-minute break, Kirk presented the 2023 annual budget review. This was the second draft of the budget after an initial presentation on October 11. One of the biggest concerns of next year’s budget is a potential economic slowdown. Kirk said that is already being felt with fewer new building permits as interest rates have risen steadily since the summer. Despite this, property tax revenue is expected to increase by 13% next year, and sales tax revenue is expected to increase by 3%. But revenue from building permits is expected to fall by 24%.

Estimates for 2023 call for the city’s total revenue to be $33.9 million, while expenses are expected to total $56.7 million. Despite this shortfall, Burgdorf’s existing ending balance would still be $74.6 million at the end of 2023. Kirk explained that the higher spending next year is the result of major capital projects in Classes. “All of our funds are healthy,” Kirk said of the many different funds Burgdorf draws on to provide services. After a long presentation, questions on the budget were postponed to the next meeting of the Board of Directors.

With the meeting extending beyond 9:30 p.m., the directors voted to end the meeting at 10 p.m. The next ordinary meeting of Burgdorf’s board of directors will take place on November 22.

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