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Delta weighs legal action

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The City of Delta is poised to issue an ultimatum to Stantec Consulting Inc. -- come to the table for negotiations concerning alternate truck route fees, or be sued.

The city is concerned over elements of Confluence Drive that do not meet Colorado Department of Transportation standards, particularly site distances at intersections that may require fences be moved or more right-of-way be purchased. The intersections were part of the total engineering/design package completed by Stantec.

At the July 7 Delta City Council meeting, city attorney David McConaughy said his office had received, just that morning, a FedEx package offering to trim the bill, "but it doesn't get us where we want to go." McConaughy offered no more specifics.

In a letter dated June 3, Stantec's legal counsel says the city has "not articulated any real exposure regarding Stantec's alleged negligence based upon the facts. Despite repeated requests, the city has failed to provide a demand that will allow us to assess alleged damages and evaluate potential liability before we will agree to participate in mediation."

Interim city manager Glen Black says if the City of Delta decides to move forward with a legal claim, the basis for the claim can be "quickly demonstrated."

Given the most recent correspondence from Stantec, most councilmembers were willing to give the matter another week or two. Robert Jurca said he's concerned about how much the city should "burn" in legal fees.

"Litigation is expensive, risky and time consuming," McConaughy agreed.

Councilmember Ray Penick said he's in favor of filing a complaint against Stantec in Delta County District Court, but said he sees no urgency. "If they're willing to come to the table and talk, it would certainly save the city some money," he said.

The matter was put on hold and McConaughy turned to other issues, including a Supreme Court ruling that affects the type of sign codes in effect in most municipalities, including the City of Delta. The city has different rules for different signs, he said, and the Supreme Court has determined that content-based regulations violate the First Amendment.

Since the city adopted its sign code, he added, there have been sweeping changes in the definition of signs, including billboards that function like TV screens. Council may want to consider the sign code in a broader context, he noted. Councilmembers agreed that rather than "patch" the sign code, a more comprehensive approach should be taken in a work session.

The issue of the sign code was raised at a recent Colorado Municipal League conference, where it was also noted the Department of Justice is actively "going after" cities out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. "Just a head's up," McConaughy noted.

As one last point of discussion, McConaughy sought approval for a fee structure that matches what he charges other municipalities. Council agreed to an additional $10/hour.

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