PITKIN BOARD OF HEALTH FACES CHALLENGE RELATED TO PROCEDURAL ERRORS
AND TOWN COUNCIL HOLDS ORIENTATION WORKSHOP FOR NEW TRUSTEES
At a special work session on June 19 the Pitkin Town Council first sat as the Board of Health to address concerns related to a septic system installation and then conducted an orientation workshop for Council members.
As a result of apparent procedural errors the Board of Health, which by ordinance is the Town Council, is faced with the problem of resolving what to do about a new septic system (OWTS) that was installed at 724 State Street
in the Fall of 2017. The Town Sanitarian, Rand Makowski, advised the Board of Health that the system was completed without the requisite progress inspections and Mr. Makowski is seeking Board of Health direction on
what steps should be taken to rectify the situation. A proper permit application was submitted and approved although it appears detailed information about system setbacks from Quartz Creek and adjacent properties was not shown
on the site plan. OWTS regulations require a ten feet setback from property lines and 25 or 50 feet setback from Quartz Creek, depending on whether or not a lined system filter is installed. During the construction process
the contractor’s employees installing the system were advised by Mr. Makowski that it appeared the absorption area lines were too close to Quartz Creek. When the contractor was unable to contact Mr. Makowski for further
information Mayor Rachel New was contacted and she advised the contractor that it appeared the system met the 25 feet setback requirement.
In the process of reviewing outstanding projects in town which require a final permit approval, Mr. Makowski found that no preliminary inspection was completed prior to backfilling the project at 724 State Street and no final
inspection report was on file. It is the contractor’s responsibility to call for required inspections. It appears the contractor construed the Mayor’s site visit as the preliminary inspection and proceeded with the project.
It was also learned that the system encroaches on the required 10 feet setback from adjacent property lines.
After extensive discussion it was acknowledged that all concerned made procedural errors. More detailed information about setbacks should have been included in the permit application, the Town Sanitarian should have been
contacted for required inspections, and the Mayor should have not become involved as that is a staff responsibility. The Board of Health outlined some corrective and procedural measures to avoid similar problems from occurring
in the future and will seek additional information from the system design engineer and from the contractor. After that information becomes available the Board of Health will meet again to determine the best course of action
to finalize the project at 724 State Street.
Following the Board of Health meeting the Town Council held a workshop for the purpose of providing orientation for new Trustees. Town Attorney Jim McDonald conducted the workshop and reviewed handout information provided
to the Trustees. Mr. McDonald’s presentation emphasized conduct of elected officials and some of his comments had a direct bearing on problems related to the Board of Health subject discussed earlier. McDonald explained that
the Trustees have two major roles, one as a legislator with responsibility to set policy, and the other as a quasi-judicial role in matters such as zoning and the Board of Health. Mr. McDonald cautioned that on the one hand
it is proper to discuss with the public matters related to town policies and actions, but when a matter may fall under the quasi-judicial definition Trustees should not discuss details outside of a formal meeting or hearing.
The Colorado Sunshine law was reviewed and it was noted that Colorado law requires public notice of any meeting in which three or more Trustees discuss town business. Three or more Trustees may be present in a social setting
and as long a no town business is discussed there is no violation. It was also noted that email is subject to the same rules and that such correspondence is public record. Mr. McDonald reviewed a memorandum that outlined steps
Trustees can take to reduce personal liability. Setting town policy at a business meeting and discussing general town operations with a constituent is permissible. However, no Trustee should act on matters which are the responsibility
of Town staff and no discussion of quasijudicial matters should occur outside of a proper hearing. Mr. McDonald also discussed matters related to conflicts of interest, noting that perception of a conflict of interest may taint
proceedings of the Board of Trustees. Trustee Suzy Metzler asked if sitting trustees who had family members involved in short term rentals or who were involved in advertising short term rentals have a conflict of interest.
Mr. McDonald indicated that further review of those circumstances would be required and encouraged any Trustee with any questions related to conflicts of interest to contact him. Finally, Mr. McDonald outlined a number of issues
related to the future of Pitkin which he believes the Trustees should address at a future workshop. Among those issues are how can the Trustees enhance the community, what challenges are facing Pitkin, what pressing issues
should be addressed quickly, what can be done to improve Trustee meetings, and does Pitkin need a town administrator and how could it be funded.
The Trustees will hold another special meeting on June 25 to consider an ordinance authorizing the implementation of a fire ban at any time that Gunnison County declares a ban. Gunnison County is currently under a Stage 2 fire
ban and Pitkin has historically followed suit although there is apparently no clear authority to do so. The June 25 meeting is intended to resolve that problem.
You may listen to the audio recording of this meeting by following this Link.