Oak Creek Town Board repeals electric bill ordinance

Oak Creek votes, 3-2, against placing liens on properties


In other action

At its Thursday meeting, the Oak Creek Town Board:

■ Approved, 5-0, Nolte Engineering Additional Services No. 6 for $5,000 for the new water tank project.

■ Approved, 5-0, a resolution to declare April the Month of the Young Child.

■ Approved, 5-0, a resolution of acceptance for the contractor’s work on the wastewater treatment plant project.

■ Approved, 5-0, pay application No. 10 from Duckels Construction.

■ Approved, 5-0, the municipal judge pay at $406 per month, the same as it has been for four years.

Trustee Dawn Smith was not present at the meeting.

Although several audience members at a full Oak Creek Town Board meeting Thursday night had other issues to discuss, the main focus of the meeting was, as expected, Ordinance 609.

The board voted, 3-2, to repeal the ordinance, with the intention to revisit the issue.

The ordinance, which was passed at the March 24 board meeting, allowed the town to place liens on properties with unpaid electric bills. It was scheduled to take effect April 28.

“We decided to repeal it be­­cause we were not happy with the wording of the ordinance,” Mayor Nikki Knoebel said after the meeting. “We understand it’s an issue, and we are looking into other options.”

The town already places liens on properties with unpaid sewer and water bills.

The issue that concerned many landlords in Oak Creek is that sometimes an electric bill — a variable cost, unlike water and sewer bills — is in the tenant’s name rather than the landlord’s.

Oak Creek property owners Chan Zwanzig and Scott Wedel were heated in their opposition to the ordinance, emphasizing the inability of landlords to be privy to their tenants’ electric bills and criticizing the town’s deposit and disconnect policy for allowing so many accounts to become delinquent.

At the end of 2010, Trustee Wendy Gustafson said, the town had $15,000 worth of electric bills in arrears. Since then, the town has amassed $4,000.

Gustafson said the lien on properties with unpaid electric bills would protect the town from raising rates on everyone to make up for the losses.

A letter from town attorney Bob Weiss presented at the meeting stated that the ordinance is legal.

Gustafson and Trustee Johrene Myers-Story voted against the repeal, viewing the property lien approach as the best step for the town as a whole.

Gustafson said she hopes the issue will not be dropped.

“As long as we do what is in the best interest of the town, I’m pretty happy,” she said. “My concern is this will get repealed and then dropped. As long as we stay on it, I’m OK.”

Cindy Powders, an Oak Creek property owner and the wife of an Oak Creek landlord, said revisiting the ordinance was a wise choice because she opposed it in its original form.

“It’s fantastic,” Powders said about the decision. “Well advised. They’ve obviously become aware of some things that they weren’t aware of before.”

Zwanzig, who is concerned about the issue because his tenant runs a medical marijuana grow operation with high electricity bills, also was in favor of the repeal.

“I feel it was a carefully considered and appropriate decision to not allow something to take effect as law before it was clarified completely and legally,” he said.

Also at the meeting, resident Josh Voorhis spoke in favor of holding property owners liable for bills, and another resident sent in a letter supporting it.

The Town Board decided to add the issue of unpaid electric bills to a work session at 7 p.m. Thursday. The work session also will include a discussion of medical marijuana in the town, which was a point of passionate discussion early in Thursday’s meeting.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

Well, at least now maybe there will be some research on the issue of unpaid service costing the town electricity enterprise fund before adopting a solution. It feels like a game of finding someone else to pay for their mistakes when it is argued that Town can have a work out plan with a person that keeps paying less than their bill and so the amount owed can become substantial. Not a discussion of the tradeoffs between being nice and risking some nonpayments, but that someone else has to pay when the town keeps giving service on credit and ends up losing money.

Though, possibly the bigger news is the letter from Officer Lance describing the serious lack of communication with a police commissioner and the police commissioner agreeing there is basically no communication. It is my experience that when someone writes a letter like that basically going over the head of the person to whom he is supposed to report to then he is prepared to quit.


cargo 6 years ago

I heard there was discussion about Officer Lance.I sincerely hope you are wrong about him being prepared to quit. I don't get it. I have heard nothing but respect for Lance from ANYONE. As for the electric, I don't how the fund could have lost $15,000 last year when the Town is so quick to pull meters. (from my understanding they even pull meters of those who are on oxygen if they become delinquent) I am thankful for those who chose to repeal this ordinance. DO Town employees still get free water & sewer?


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

Cargo, I do not know if Lance is prepared to quit. Maybe I am old school and things are different now, but I think anyone that calls out one of his police commissioners whom acts in a management supervisory role in public has to be ready to quit.

From a trustee's comments, it is apparently possible to run up quite an electric bill by agreeing to a work out plan (pay what is owed over time) and then not follow it, but instead drop periodic $20 payments into the overnight payment slots.

It was quite frustrating that Trustee Wendy has all sorts of data, but none in any form to share except verbally to make her argument that the Town needs the money.

The question of why Excel, YVEA and other regulated utilities serving 90% of the people of Colorado are able to control their losses via deposits and disconnects, but OC cannot was never answered.


freerider 6 years ago

What a crock this was

Hard to believe that anybody supported this scam

Being held liable for your tenant ...hahahaha




honestabe 6 years ago

From what i have observed (and not observed), Officer Lance has done a very good job as the sole oak creek police officer. Many/most other people in town would state the same. I find it very interesting that the police commissioner Wisecup has not thought it important to have any communication with Lance. Wisecup stated at the meeting that he doesnt use his email, or respond to Lance, because he is afraid of someone finding what is on his computer, thru an "open meeting/open information" request. He has repeatedly avoided communication with the officer. The other police commissioner was not at the meeting. Chuck stated that he is upset with Lance because of loose dogs and snowmobiles/dirtbike riding around. He then mentioned, in a very Richard Wisecup manner, that people might start taking the law into their own hands. I feel its time for a new police commissioner, as one of the town board members stated.
I think it might be very interesting to report on what is being expected from the police department, on a budget of just over 100k a year. I feel Lance and Eilleen have been very good for Oak Creek.

I also feel that chuck wisecup is a very important, vital, and useful member of the oak creek community. The fire department, of which he heads, has a budget of over $1,000,000 a year, leading to a lot of employment for his cronies.
Possibly if Chuck offered to share some of that 1 million dollars with the police department, or road department, we could work on some of his issues, such as dogs, motorcycles, and oh yeah, meth, child abuse, drunk driving, spousal abuse, etc. Or he could use some of that 1million to deal with the illegal weed industry that exists in oak creek, instead of being powerless to act now, with his measly budget.
Thank you to both Lance and Chuck for your service. I would hate to lose Lance and get a new officer like some that Oak Creek has had in the past.


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