Proposed tax hike in Snowmass said to help save water, money | AspenTimes.com

Proposed tax hike in Snowmass said to help save water, money

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is proposing a property tax increase in November that it says will save both money and water in the long run.

Pitkin County residents should receive their mail-in ballots for the Nov. 5 election starting this week. In addition to some statewide measures, Snowmass Village residents will be asked to approve a mill levy of 2.135 mills that would fund the replacement of aging water and sewer infrastructure, much of which is 30 to 50 years old, according to the district.

Emergency repairs are becoming more commonplace and taking away funding from proactive replacement projects. They also cost more than scheduled repairs, said Kit Hamby, director of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District.

"Delays in the capital replacement of infrastructure and treatment-plant mechanical systems results in more frequent emergency repairs that drive higher maintenance costs," Hamby said in an email. "These costs are passed on to the consumer through higher water and sewer rates."

The district has "extremely low" rates compared with other Colorado districts, Hamby said. Whether it decides to raise service fees in 2014 will depend in part on the result of the election.

Voters in 1998 approved a bond measure for 1.297 mills for the expansion of the wastewater-treatment plant. The mill expires Jan. 1. If voters approve Ballot Issue 5A, the net increase would be 0.838 mills, the equivalent of $6.72 a year per $100,000 of a home's actual value. The total tax for the year would equate to $16.99 per $100,000 of actual home value.

Recommended Stories For You

As of Oct. 6, Hamby said he'd received about two dozen responses to a letter the district sent to voters, all of them supportive.

Dave Spence, former president of the water board, said no one wants to see property taxes go up. However, most residents would probably "rather do it and be sure that the pipes are still working" than not have a replacement program, he said.

Spence joined the board after pipes running to his building broke during the holiday season many years ago.

"It's inevitable that we're going to have to replace this stuff," Spence said. "It's just a matter of whether you do it in an orderly manner with a lot of forethought or you run around with your backhoe at Christmas and try to solve problems at a lot higher expense."

The only naysayers of district projects in the past were members of the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus, Spence said. Most of those individuals are supportive of measure 5A because it will conserve more of the precious water that the district diverts from Snowmass Creek.

"This kind of investment in conservation is what enables Kit's water district to meet all of the needs anybody could foresee for 50 years and keep Snowmass Creek healthy," said board member Chelsea Congdon Brundige. The planned replacement of treatment-plant mechanical systems might not change the amount of water diverted, Hamby said. However, most of the projects will address water and sewer lines, which will break and leak more frequently as they age.

"The district has approximately 19.1 miles of aging cast-iron water lines that, by today's construction methods, are considered substandard," Hamby said. "The proactive replacement of these lines will ultimately result in a more efficient and less costly utility operation."