|It is not unusual to hear an American broadcast reporter lament how history’s wealthiest and most technologically advanced nation cannot tend to its water quality. Flint, Michigan will forever hold the American imagination as the horror story of what happens when potable water, what we take for granted as the rush from the turning of a household faucet, becomes toxic and unusable.
When the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors meet publicly and monthly, they are quietly going about the complex business of seeing to it that the district’s customers are served up safe water. It’s not a simple task. As previously reported in the Tribune, the directors have for months now been engaged in proceeding with upgrading the district’s currently outdated wastewater treatment facility. It is a multi-million dollar undertaking.
Addressing that program in their meeting last Thursday, November 2, the district came yet another step closer to remedying the inadequate treatment ponds on the northern edge of Westcliffe. The Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) being refined by SGM Engineers with US Department of Agriculture Rural Development counsel continues to stay on track and on time. If the final draft is accepted and costed appropriately, USDA grants and loans will enable work to get underway in the summer of 2018.
In the meantime, district manager George Medaris is hopeful that the current USDA 80/20 loan/grant ratio be increased on the grant side of the formula. “USDA looks at what they think we should be paying into the upgrades,” he notes, but the district’s bargaining has to do with the hard realities of our less-than-wealthy community and ability to return payments on loans in an orderly fashion. One gain in the conversations to date, Medaris pointed out, is that should the district acquire other grants for the project, USDA will not deduct those amounts from their underwriting of the reconstruction.
One of the realities being confronted of course is the uncertainty of the federal administration’s 2018 allocation of money to the agency. Thus, DC beltway chaos laps up on the shores of Custer County, possibly jeopardizing positive progress for the district. “But we should be talking now with construction loan providers and possible bond issue consultants,” Medaris says, “in order to stay on our timeline.”
In other business, the district received the report of Mary and Paul Zawacki, who have very carefully and thoroughly polled their fellow property owners in the Westcliffe Second Filing, south of Hermit Lane and west of Highway 69. Out of 26 owners, 23 have responded to their canvassing, and 19 of them support proceeding with the district supplying water and sewer to that part of the town. Next steps seem to be in order to consider how such delivery of services could be expanded there—again, not a simple matter. Engineering, cost both to the district and to new consumers, and consideration of becoming a “special improvement district” all now have to be investigated.
Other business included discussing sales tax on bulk water sales (not likely, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue); restructuring the district’s permit policies and 2018 fee structures; redoing the district’s 40 year old rules and regulations; and planning for the 2018 budget.
The next board meeting, to which the public is always invited, will be held Thursday, December 7 at 5:15 in the lower level conference room of the Third Street Gallery, where the district is officed. Questions and concerns can always be directed to Medaris and the friendly staff at 783-2604.
– W.A. Ewing