Fraser Rec Board rejects demands for resignations
July 29, 2008
A citizens group opposed to construction of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation Districts (FVMRD) recreation center at the Grand Park subdivision is turning up the pressure with a lengthening list of demands, but the districts board of directors is not budging. In a letter hand-delivered to the district office on Friday, July 25, the group is no longer demanding just the resignation of one FVMRD director, but now wants four of them to tender their resignations immediately. The groups letter also demands the districts board of directors immediately revoke its contract with Grand Park, which is donating the land for the recreation center. That contract was approved at the boards most recent monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 22. In addition, the group wants the district to consider an alternate site for construction of the recreation center. That site, offered by the Grand County Water & Sanitation District #1, was first presented to the public at last weeks FVMRD meeting.Rounding out the groups list is a demand for access by the groups attorney, Mark Rudis, to the FVMRD board of directors executive session minutes dealing with Grand Park and the proposed recreation center from July 2007 to present. In reply, the FVMRD issued a press release on Sunday that rejects the resignation demand and refuses to provide any of its executive session minutes to the group. Also, the district indicated that it has no plans to revoke the contract with Grand Park because the board of directors still considers its land donation as the best site for the recreation center. In addition, the FVMRD letter cited added costs, construction delays and bond penalties as other reasons for not accepting any alternative location for the recreation center whose ground-breaking is planned in early August.The construction of a recreation center was part of a $19.5 million bond approved by FVMRD voters in last Novembers election.Resignation demandsEarlier this month, the citizens group issued its first demand for the resignation of Beth Sands, a FVMRD director and the boards treasurer. They allege she has a direct conflict of interest because she is an employee of Cornerstone Holdings LLC, the developer of Grand Park.In its Friday letter, the group upped its demands, calling also for the resignations of the boards president Dan OConnell and directors Pete Strohecker and John Kacik. All three had voted for the approval of the Grand Park contract at last weeks FVMRD meeting while Sands abstained. The only director whose resignation is not being demanded by the group is Greg Gallavan, who voted against accepting the contract. Sands has continued to maintain her innocence regarding any conflict of interest, stating publicly that she has not attempted to influence any of the boards deliberations on the contract and has abstained from all votes regarding it. Sundays FVMRD press release quoted the districts attorney Owen Oliver supporting Sands, stating she had complied with Colorados conflict of interest laws. Oliver went on to explain those laws were specifically written with the understanding that potential conflicts of interest would arise in small communities similar to the Fraser Valley, but Sands had not violated them.Simply parading that theres a conflict of interest really doesnt mean much at all, Oliver said. Grand Park vs. alternative siteWhile refusing to revoke its just-approved contract with Grand Park as demanded by the citizens group, the FVMRD defended its decision, saying it had already explored options for other alternative sites.In the FVMRD press release, the boards President Dan OConnell said he had gone looking for alternative sites but had not found any better than Grand Park. Ive been asking every possible town and every other landowner if they have a site that would be appropriate and that theyd be willing to offer, he said. I didnt get anywhere with that.As for the Grand County Water & Sanitation District proposal, OConnell said he knew about it in advance of last weeks meeting.People heard Winter Park Water & San. offer this land, and they dont believe we evaluated that as a real option, he said. I actually knew that as an option last week. We did evaluate it at the meeting. We made an educated decision with our consultants on that offer.OConnell explained the proposed alternative site was rejected in favor of Grand Park because the change would have cost the district an estimated $2.2 million to $3 million as well as delaying the start and finish of the recreation centers construction. Were at the point now where we are held to moving ahead with this project on a very specific timeline, according to the law, he said. Under the bond issue payment schedule, the district is required to maintain that timeline. Penalties for deviating from the bond schedule are severe, according to the FVMRD press release.Any change right now is going to cost quite a bit of money because weve already planned for our site, OConnell said. Also, delays are a problem and possibly more price increases on top of that.Executive session minutesIn its letter demanding access to the FVMRD boards executive session minutes, the Concerned Citizens group said it wanted them to ensure that no formal action was taken in those sessions that violated state law. The letter specifically mentioned the granting to Grand Park of naming rights and a reversion clause as issues where violation may have occurred. It stated the contracts clauses dealing with them are fundamental community issues that should have been made in public meetings, not executive sessions.The letter also stated that if the district refuses to turn over the executive session minutes, the group was prepared to sue the district to force its compliance. In the FVMRD press release rejecting that demand, the districts attorney Oliver said the board had done nothing to violate open meeting laws. He went on to say that if the citizens group has any true evidence that the board had broken the law, he demanded to see it and would then re-evaluate his opinion.