Friday once again! 🎉 Before you step off into the much-deserved weekend, take a beat with us here in your morning edition of BRL Today.

Our top story by John Herrick has the latest on Boulder’s proposed library district, after Boulder County commissioners tabled a vote yesterday to move ahead with the plan approved by City Council earlier this week.

Also in today’s newsletter — another lawsuit could delay the county’s coordinated debris removal program; Xcel Energy extends rebate deadline for smoke damage repairs; details on Wednesday’s wildfire (and sinkhole!) and more.

Until next week,

– Jezy, managing editor

Trail runners hit the Anemone Loop Trail on April 6, 2022. The next free public group run leaves from the Patagonia store on Pearl Street at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18. Credit: Sasha Teninty

Quickly

☀️ Brighten up: Plenty of sunshine with highs in the mid-60s today. Expect lighter winds, with temps in the low-70s on Saturday before a Sunday cool-down.

⚖️ Another debris cleanup lawsuit: New legal proceedings could delay the start of the county’s Marshall Fire debris removal program. “Boulder County received notice yesterday that Ceres Environmental Services, Inc., a Florida corporation, filed a lawsuit in Boulder County District Court requesting that a court invalidate and terminate the County’s contract with DRC Emergency Services, LLC (DRC) for the County’s coordinated Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) program for properties destroyed by the Marshall Fire.”

🔥 Another wildfire: Wednesday’s open space blaze near the north fork of the Shanahan trailhead burned 0.6 acres and was 100% contained by the end of the day. Boulder Fire-Rescue says smoke may still be visible from the burn area along with that of the NCAR Fire. “At this time, we do not believe this fire to be caused by power lines, nor did we find evidence of the fire being human caused.”

💨 Rebate extended for smoke damage repairs: Xcel Energy customers whose homes suffered smoke damage from the Marshall Fire may apply for rebates to help offset the cost of insulation and air-sealing measures through January 31, 2023. Check out Xcel’s program flyer for full details and requirements.

🚌 Sunken bus on Arapahoe: As the North Shanahan Ridge fire rattled residents on Wednesday afternoon, an RTD bus got trapped in a sinkhole at the intersection of Arapahoe and Commerce. Six passengers were evacuated without injury. Westbound Arapahoe Ave. between Conestoga and Commerce streets has been closed since, but Boulder Police said in a tweet that re-paving was “ALMOST complete” as of late yesterday afternoon.

🏗️ Ignition-resistant construction requirements in eastern unincorporated Boulder County: “The Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting Department is proposing an update to the ignition-resistant requirements for construction in Wildfire Zone 2, which comprises the Eastern area of unincorporated Boulder County.” The Board of Review reviewed the proposed changes at a public hearing on Wednesday, April 6. “This update has been prompted by recent wildfires, including the Marshall Fire.”

🏆 Bring home the gold. Boulder’s beloved Colorado Chautauqua was named a finalist for the ELGL Knope Award, celebrating the country’s “best local government historic and cultural sites.” The city-maintained park and event space faced off against Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia, Michigan. Voting ended at midnight.

Top Story

Boulder County commissioners punt vote on library district, prompting potential stalemate over long-sought plan to boost funding

The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday tabled a vote on a resolution to move ahead with a plan to boost funding for the City of Boulder’s libraries, citing concerns over the potential financial impact on property owners. 

The resolution would have created an independent “library district,” which is a new government entity set up to oversee a library system. If approved, it would have marked a major step toward hashing out the thorny details involved in removing the library from municipal control. 

Ultimately, even with the resolution, it would be up to voters in the to-be-decided district boundary to approve a property tax in November to pay for the library district. But creating the district first – through the resolution – would provide a clearer and faster path forward.

Proponents want voters to approve up to a 3.8-mill property tax that would raise about $20 million for the city’s libraries. That would be an approximate 19% increase from $16.8 million, which is what the City of Boulder estimates the library will cost the city in 2023. It would be a 45% increase from $13.8 million, the current cost to run the library, according to city staff estimates.

This additional funding would pay for more literacy programs at existing facilities and open a new corner library in Gunbarrel, among many other projects outlined in the 2018 Library Master Plan. 

But county commissioners said they worried this tax would be too much for property owners, whose home values continue to rise in the region’s tight housing market. Commercial properties are assessed at four times the residential rate.

Commissioner Claire Levy proposed a 1-mill property tax, which she said would raise about $5.5 million per year. Levy suggested the City of Boulder continue to chip in what it is already spending on its libraries with money from its General Fund, which is primarily generated from the city’s sales tax. 

“I cannot move forward with a 3.8 mill. I just can’t,” Levy said. “I need to be able to defend this to people who are really living on the edge.” 

BRL Picks

🍹 Drink it up. Thirsty for a good time? Get ready for a four-day celebration of Boulder’s beverage scene at First Sip, a new event presented by First Bite: Boulder County Restaurant Week, April 28–May 1. Festivities will feature a variety of drink specials, tastings and classes throughout Boulder County. Check out the full list of participants here.

❤️‍🩹 Group hug. Marshall Fire victims are eligible for free group EMDR therapy from Jewish Family Service. Virtual sessions take place on Saturdays (9–10:30 a.m.) and Thursdays (11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.). In-person sessions are available Tuesdays at the Louisville Rec Center (4–5:30 p.m.) and Saturdays (12–1:30 p.m.) at the Superior Community Center. “Led by local therapists certified in Group EMDR, the sessions incorporate mindfulness, grounding exercises and other resources to decrease emotional and physical struggles that can follow trauma.”

Covid-19 Updates: April 8, 2022

  • 75 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 13% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 0 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 49% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 71% since July 2020.
  • Colorado to close 40 testing sites by end of April. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) says the move is “part of the state’s gradual transition from offering COVID-19 testing through state-run community testing sites to traditional healthcare settings and federal programs including the Test to Treat program.”
  • CDPHE aims for statewide wastewater surveillance. Via NPR: “The agency is now working with 47 wastewater utilities that currently serve about 60% of Colorado’s population. Its goal is statewide coverage. … About $9.4 million in federal funds is paying for the state’s wastewater testing project from January 2021 through at least July 2023. The total includes personnel, supplies, equipment and contracts.” 

What We’re Reading

📖  Colorado’s first unionized Starbucks in Superior? “After clearing a review process with the National Labor Relations Board, workers at the Superior shop on Rock Creek Circle began voting by ballot Tuesday [on whether to form a union]. … The group’s efforts come on the heels of about 11 other stores across the country, which have voted to join Workers United, a barista-led chapter affiliated with the massive Service Employees International Union.” [CPR News]

📖 Denver real estate agent wants to simplify process for building accessory dwelling units (ADUs). “‘Even real estate agents can’t figure this out,’ [Kassidy] Benson said. ‘I started this process five years ago and just completed it. I’m a real estate agent. I own my own real estate brokerage. I have good knowledge of lending, building and zoning… and for me, it was extremely stressful.'” [Denverite]

📖 Denver will appeal $14 million verdict in George Floyd protest case. “Mayor Michael Hancock told Axios Denver on Thursday that he disagreed with the precedent-setting verdict, part of the first jury trial in the nation to challenge a police department’s use of force to quell unrest surrounding the 2020 demonstrations. ‘While we were not perfect in our administration and dealing with the protests, we believe that we certainly have some reasons to go back and look at a different type of decision with regards to that situation,’ Hancock said.” [Axios Denver]

ICYMI from BRL

🏊 Boulder pool facilities need nearly 100 lifeguards for summer operations. Staffing challenges were an issue before the pandemic, according to Parks and Recreation officials, but Covid-related furloughs and a national lifeguard shortage are making the problem worse.

🏃‍♂️ City of Boulder plans to reopen East Age Well Center as soon as this fall, but it remains unclear what services will be restored. The ‘much-loved’ center providing popular social and exercise programs for older residents has been closed since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

📚 Here’s what you need to know about Boulder’s proposed library district. From how much it would cost to who would run it, Boulder Reporting Lab breaks down the details on the plan designed to boost funding for the city’s libraries.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.