To catch you up on a few things, I'll wrap a few unrelated news developments that happened at the Colorado Springs Utilities Board meeting in a single blog.
Memorial Health System: Before the Utilities Board meeting got underway today, the City Council convened and voted 8-1 to officially appoint 14 people to the Council's task force on Memorial. The task force is charged with drafting, issuing and analyzing requests for proposals to rent the health system to either a non-profit or a for-profit.
Task force chair Jan Martin, president pro tem of Council, said this means everyone on the task force, including two businessmen and Mayor Steve Bach, will be subject to disclosure laws and open meeting laws. Those folks previously had balked at complying.
But here's a new wrinkle. Dr. David Steinbruner, who serves as an ER doc at Memorial and who is a former Army active duty physician, wasn't appointed at Martin's request.
Steinbruner, who was to represent the point of view of those covered by TriCare, which serves retired military and reimburses at a very low rate, says he wasn't appointed because Council member Lisa Czelatdko had words with Martin about him.
Seems the Steinbruners and the Czelatdkos used to be friends but aren't anymore. Steinbruner wants to keep it at this: "She had an objection to my presence, and I know it's personal."
Despite not being appointed, the doctor will still participate in the task force process, he says, as an observer.
"I'm going to still go to the meetings," he says. "We want a presence from the doctors. We need a presence from the military. We need to do right by TriCare."
The Council also approved $150,000 for consultant Michael Anthony from Chicago to help the task force shape the RFP (request for proposals).
Utilities business: Andrew and Sandra Knauf appeared before the Utilities Board to pitch their case about waiving reconnection fees for water and wastewater on a home they've owned next to their actual residence on the west side for at least 20 years. The reconnection charges quoted by Utilities exceed $11,000.
Utilities Board members raised various questions, including failure to notify families of the exorbitant charges and the fact that even the Utilities Board apparently doesn't have the authority to bend previously enacted tariffs.
Turns out, the Knaufs aren't the only ones. A man showed up saying he bought a house from foreclosure in 2006 or so and checked on reconnection fees. He was told there were minimal charges. He postponed doing anything with the home until 2009, and then got handed a bill of "thousands of dollars," he said.
That's because of the period of time since the house was last connected. Utilities charges depend on how long it's been off the system.
Anyway, the board told staff to do more research to see if the tariffs need to be changed, because redevelopment and infill development are priorities for the city. If reconnection charges are so sky-high that nobody can afford them, good luck redeveloping old parts of town.
"We want to send a message that we are not going to inhibit redevelopment," Councilor Tim Leigh says. "We want to promote it."
After that comment, Leigh slipped out of the meeting. While his colleagues were briefed on the biggest public project in the region's history — the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System pipeline when financing charges are included — Leigh was strolling the lobby waiting for a TV news crew to show up and put his face on camera. Smile, Tim.