Another Monday, Boulder. Here’s the local news to start your week:
For our main story, I chatted with Giles Troughton and Karen Ramsey about their efforts to bury the power lines in their neighborhood. Living near Flagstaff Mountain, Troughton and Ramsey are trying to lessen the risk of wildfires started by downed power lines, as embers potentially blown from fires in the mountains are beyond their control. (Undergrounding power lines can reduce the risk of line-induced fire by 99%.)
The conversation and subsequent reporting revealed a cost share program Boulder once provided homeowners to help undertake such projects. The program ended in 2010 with the expiration of the city’s franchise agreement with Xcel. Now that the franchise is back, however, there’s still no cost share due to “equity issues.”
What would it take for all of Boulder’s power lines to be buried? Increased collaboration between Xcel, Comcast and Century Link is one necessary ingredient.
In other news, Friday afternoon was the chosen time for Boulder to release its 2023 proposed budget. Some of the highlights are included below.
Enjoy the beginning of your week.
— Tim, reporter
What to know today
- Still summer for a little longer: Generally sunny with a high of 86. Some afternoon clouds might make an appearance. Highs near 90 throughout the week.
- Boulder unveils 2023 recommended budget: The budget, which the city said “reflects community and council priorities,” is $513.5 million and represents an 11% increase over 2022. Helping buoy the proposed additional spending is a steady rise in sales tax revenue. City council will discuss the budget on Sept. 8 and hold a public hearing on Oct. 6. The second reading is scheduled for Oct. 20. See the breakdown here with some highlights below.
- More for city employee pay: this includes getting to 1,540 full-time equivalent employees, which would restore city staffing to pre-pandemic levels. It also seeks to hire an additional 185 seasonal employees, mostly for Open Space and Mountain Parks and the Parks and Recreation Department. Whether the city can hire this many additional employees remains to be seen, as Parks and Recreation has struggled to fully staff many of its facilities. Due to a shortage of lifeguards this summer, Boulder operated several pools at reduced hours or kept them closed entirely.
- Increased spending for wildfire resilience and emergency response: the city recommends adding three firefighters, along with providing additional resources to Open Space and Mountain Parks to “increase wildland-urban interface management and open space land management efforts.”
- Alternative behavioral health response: a 911 alternative, the money would fund a pilot program to respond to “behavioral health-related calls” with those outside of law enforcement. “The suggested model builds upon the current crisis intervention and response team which involves a mental health professional co-responding with law enforcement.”
- Safe and managed spaces: extending the 18-month pilot program initially approved in April 2021, the money would add an encampment management team and “bolster the urban parks ranger program.” The pilot program cleared 389 encampments in its tenure.
- Feedback solicited on the proposed homeless day center: City officials are collecting feedback on a proposed day center for homeless people until the end of the week. Where the center would be and what services it would provide are undecided. The current Boulder City Council has made a day center a priority. You can fill out the online survey here.
- Seeking representatives to help staff Police Oversight Panel: The city is looking for representatives from local nonprofits to help select new members for the Police Oversight Panel, which reviews investigations into police misconduct. The watchdog panel is seeking to increase its size from nine to 11 members. It’s currently operating with just eight. The city said to contact the co-chairs of the panel by Sept. 4. More info can be found here.
- Scott Carpenter slides get their name: In lighter news — Boulder Parks and Rec let an online poll pick the names of the Scott Carpenter slides, and the newly announced winners are Slidey McSlideface (reminiscent of the UK’s Boaty McBoatface polar ship) and Comet.
By Tim Drugan
In the Flagstaff neighborhood just north of the Flatirons, residents are collaborating to bury their utility lines. With the goal of preventing wildfires started by power lines, the undertaking could be seen as a test case for the rest of the city.
Giles Troughton and Karen Ramsey moved to Boulder from Boston two years ago. Retired from a job in insurance, Troughton was wary of the wildfire risk lurking in the surrounding landscape.
“I told Karen one of my criteria was I didn’t want to live in a wildfire zone,” Troughton said. “You can see I lost that argument.”
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🍁 Fall Fest is fast approaching: Sept. 16-18 on the Pearl Street Mall brings the annual autumnal festival rife with music, beer and artisan accessories. Start getting excited by reading more about it here.
🎸 30th anniversary of the Fox Theater: Presented by KBCO, Gov’t Mule will celebrate the iconic theater ‘s anniversary with a special 2-set show on Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. General admission will be $95 the day of the show and slightly less if bought in advance. For tickets and more detail about Gov’t Mule, click here.
🤗 Happiness challenge: You have until Aug. 31 to take part in the Downtown Boulder Partnership’s August happiness challenge. Snap a photo downtown and tag @downtownboulder or use #BoulderHappyPlace, and post on Instagram. In the caption “tag the name of a downtown business that brings you joy.” A $50 gift card will be awarded to the winner. Details here.
🥁 Pearl Street Stampede: Come hear CU Boulder’s marching band kick off the 2022 football season, starting at the 1300 block of Pearl Street on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m.
🎨 Drop-in figure drawing: Every Monday from 1-3 p.m. and Tuesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m NoBo Center for the Arts hosts “facilitated, unstructured figure drawing.” All skill levels are welcome, though you must be 18 or have a parent’s permission as the models aren’t wearing anything. More information here.
Covid in Boulder County: Aug. 29, 2022
- 79 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬇Down 28% over preceding 7-day avg.
- 12 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Same as last week’s high of 12.
- 33% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬇Down from avg. of 66% since July 2020.
- Note: Boulder County has moved into the “low community level” for transmission, per CDC guidelines.
What else we’re reading
- Broomfield-based Vail Resorts recently announced estimated opening dates at its ski resorts, which include: Keystone Resort (mid-October); Breckenridge Ski Resort and Vail Ski Resort (Nov. 11); Beaver Creek Resort and Crested Butte Ski Resort (Nov. 23).
- Jefferson County School District, the second-largest in the state, has proposed closing 16 elementary schools due to shrinking enrollment and other issues. BVSD established a committee this summer to study its own declining enrollment challenges, particular at elementary schools.
- A personal trainer for fire mitigation: Wildfire Partners helps homeowners address unique challenges to protect themselves and their neighbors before the next blaze strikes. It’s a lot of work; it’s not necessarily cheap, and it’s not something you just do one time,’ says program coordinator Jim Webster.
- The Boulder County Jail is full for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the overcrowding, Boulder County Sheriff said he is feeling pressure to jail more people from city police officers and business owners as reports of crime rise across the county.
- City of Boulder officials want more money to clear homeless encampments. Members of the Boulder City Council appear reluctant to extend a pilot program launched in April 2021 that was intended to remove tents and other belongings of homeless people from public spaces.