Snowmass taxpayers asked to fund new sewer plant |

Snowmass taxpayers asked to fund new sewer plant

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
The exterior of the Snowmass wastewater treatment plant, which needs to be upgraded to comply with new federal guidelines. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is asking voters to approve a mill levy increase to fund the project.
Jeremy Wallace/Aspen Times |

Starting this week, Snowmass water customers will receive ballots in the mail asking them to approve a mill-levy increase by election day May 3.

Ballot measure 5A asks to increase the water district’s debt to $19.85 million, or a monthly tax increase of $1.89 per $100,000 of assessed value. The funds will go toward replacing the district’s current wastewater-treatment plant to comply with new federally mandated guidelines.

No one likes to pay more taxes, especially in a year when Snowmass Village property owners may be asked for more (the fire district is eyeing a new station and is currently weighing how to fund it). But by paying for it this way, the district hopes to avoid having to increase its rates in order to cover the costs.

The changes have to do with nitrogen and phosphorus removal in the treatment plant, district manager Kit Hamby said in a presentation at the April 4 Town Council meeting. Because of a mandate from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Colorado has established new discharge restrictions for sewer plants above a certain capacity, restrictions intended to improve stream quality.

Glenwood Springs-based engineering firm SGM is helping with the design of the new plant, and its current plan repurposes 75 percent of the currently facilities. However, the plant will still be getting a whole new building, and the current facility will have to continue to be operable while the new plant gets built.

“The current building will go away and be replaced by a fairly large building,” Hamby said. “We will work with the town to make sure we’re meeting all aesthetic requirements of the site.”

Assuming the funding and design process moves forward as planned, construction will start next year and take 18 to 24 months. When asked at the council meeting about traffic impacts, Hamby acknowledged they will be significant.

“This plant will be over 40,000 square feet,” he said. “And it’s going to be during this Base Village project.”

SGM has estimated the project will cost about $19.8 million, said Joe Farrell, president of the water district board, at the meeting. The alternative to the mill levy is an increase in rates for water district customers, estimated at an 80 percent hike, and the board does not support that, according to a notice sent to voters.

Mayor Markey Butler asked about the penalties involved if the district didn’t move forward with the project. Hamby responded that the state can assess fees of $20,000 a day if it does not comply.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have a choice,” Butler said.

Ballots will go out to all registered voters in the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District over the next week. Completed ballots must be received by 7 p.m. May 3.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.