Lone Tree residents can expect to see two similar questions on the November ballot that centers around opting out of Senate Bill 152 — one for Douglas County and one specifically for Lone Tree.
Senate Bill 152, which was introduced in 2005, prohibits most uses of municipal and county public resources for infrastructure to improve local broadband services, or from providing these services directly or indirectly, according to Lone Tree’s website.
It essentially limits or prohibits local governments from using public resources to provide broadband internet, said Arielle Hodgson, a management analyst for Lone Tree, during the city’s Aug. 16 study session.
“Local voters can authorize their local government to opt out of that and say, ‘We actually do want our local government to be able to use public resources to provide these services,” Hodgson said.
Opting out of SB-152 does not bind local taxpayers to provide local funds, the website states. Rather, it “removes the local prohibition on seeking grants or expending public funds to provide service.”
As of spring 2022, voters in about 118 Colorado municipalities, 40 counties and several school districts have passed SB-152 opt-out ballot measures, according to the website.
In fall 2021, Douglas County hired a national broadband consulting firm, HR Green, to conduct a broadband study. The study, completed in March, found a need for improved broadband throughout the county.
The number one recommendation from the study was to pursue opting out of SB-152 “to just make a lot more effective and efficient means of improving broadband services throughout the county,” Hodgson said.
According to the website, there are several federal and state grant programs with funding available for broadband services, and Douglas County currently has allocated $8 million of federal grant funds toward improvements.
“The county has since allocated $8 million in ARPA funds and will likely pursue more, and kind of prioritize this as something they want to do” Hodgson said. “But for them to connect to our infrastructure and spend public dollars to provide a service, we would have to opt out of SB-152.”
Hodgson said Douglas County approached both the City of Lone Tree and the City of Castle Pines and sought a coordinated election. The Town of Parker already successfully approved SB-152 exemption in 2019.
The City of Lone Tree staff has since worked with Douglas County and Castle Pines staff to draft ballot language.
“The ideal was for the three communities to have the same language just to prevent any confusion,” Hodgson said, explaining there will be two different questions with the same intent. “Lone Tree residents will have both the county and the Lone Tree question on their ballot.”
Drafted ballot language presented during Lone Tree's study session on Aug. 16, 2022.
The drafted ballot question asks for permission for Lone Tree to re-establish the authority to participate in, facilitate, or partner with third parties offering three types of services: cable television service, telecommunications service and advanced services. Advanced services refers to broadband internet, or high-speed internet access capability.
The Douglas County attorney recommended including all three types in the ballot question, and not just broadband, to ensure the municipality fully opts out of SB-152, Hodgson said.
During the Aug. 16 meeting, Lone Tree City Council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with Douglas County to participate in the Nov. 8 coordinated election.
According to the staff report, the agreement is standard and something all participating political subdivisions need to approve to participate in the Nov. 8 coordinated election.
The cost to coordinate the election with Douglas County is approximately $15,000. According to the staff report, the cost is included in the 2022 city clerk’s budget.
Lone Tree City Council will be asked to approve the specific ballot language during its next meeting on Sept. 6. Also during that meeting, council will be asked to approve a resolution calling for a special election conducted by mail ballot to be held concurrently with the coordinated election on Nov. 8, according to the staff report.
“It’s really important that this passes,” said Councilmember Wynne Shaw. “I would hate to be unconnected to whatever the county’s got ARPA money to do.”
Mayor Jackie Millet said it will be important for the city to explain to voters why they will see two similar opt-out questions on the ballot, given there will be one for Douglas County and one for Lone Tree, and ensure voters don’t think it’s a misprint.
“We need to make sure we’re really clear on our education on the website about what’s happening there,” Millet said.
Those interested in learning more about the proposed opt-out ballot question can visit: cityoflonetree.com/sb-152/.
Residents interested in contacting members of Lone Tree City Council can find council members’ emails and phone numbers at: cityoflonetree.com/government/city-council/.
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