Smuggler Trailer Parkwants help with pipes |

Smuggler Trailer Parkwants help with pipes

Allyn Harvey

Mark Hesselschwerdt was wondering if the city of Aspen might cover the upfront cost of replacing the Smuggler Trailer Park’s failing water pipes and then add a little each month to people’s bills to recoup its money.

So, he went to the City Council’s brown bag lunch work session Monday and asked. Trouble was, nobody had an answer.

The problem with the pipes at Smuggler is twofold. One is their age. They’ve been in the ground for more than three decades, and calcium deposits are clogging the pipes.

The other problem is with the changes under way at Smuggler, which is transforming from a trailer park to a neighborhood with stick-built homes. With little room on either side to expand, many homeowners have dug basements, which requires rerouting the pipes that carry water throughout the neighborhood.

Instead of a water main that runs along the side or down the middle of a street with pipes running to each house, the Smuggler developer ran three pipes from an existing water main into his property, placed mobile homes directly above the pipe and connected the sinks and showers and washing machines. There are only three meters to measure water use in Smuggler, so the homeowners split the bill each month.

Hesselschwerdt, president of the Smuggler Homeowners Association, said that whenever someone builds a basement these days, the water pipe needs to be rerouted around the house, which adds to the distance between the last few trailers along the pipe and the water main that supplies the Smuggler system.

“People at the end of the line aren’t getting very much water pressure. It’s a real fragile system,” he added.

The experts who have looked at the pipes have told Smuggler residents that, between the calcium and the constant reroutes, their system only has about five useful years left. So the homeowners association has started to save money for an upgrade, with a water main and individual, metered hook-ups.

It has about $200,000 in the bank and just raised the monthly homeowners fee by $25 to speed things up.

Hesselschwerdt met with the council Monday to see if the city could help pay for the upgrade so it could be completed right away and then add a repayment charge to each homeowner’s bill.

City Manager Steve Barwick cautioned against helping a private entity like the Smuggler Homeowners Association pay for its utility upgrades. Barwick suggested that the homeowners form a special improvement district and tax themselves to pay for the work.

City attorney Jon Worcester pointed out that an improvement district might be more trouble than it’s worth for such a small neighborhood. But he wasn’t too sure about paying for the work out of pocket and billing the homeowners over the next several years.

“I don’t know that you want to set a precedent by providing a private homeowners association with the money it needs to pay this bill,” he said.

City utilities director Phil Overeynder said in most neighborhoods his department keeps track of maintenance and improvements costs and recoups them by adding a charge to the water bills.

The City Council directed Barwick and Worcester to see if it is possible to treat Smuggler like other neighborhoods.

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