Election to decide funding of new sewer plant in Snowmass
By next week, Snowmass water customers will have decided how to fund a new wastewater treatment plant for their area.
The upgrade is mandated by the state, which is enacting new federal guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency on discharge restrictions for sewer plants, so the question is really not whether the project will be done but how the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District will pay for it. It’s expected to cost close to $20 million, and the district’s board decided that it would rather ask residents to increase their property taxes than hike its rates.
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. Mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 3.
Board members voted in February to take the question to voters, deciding that a property tax hike that could also be a writeoff was preferable to increasing rates by an estimated 80 percent. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is one of 44 public utilities in the first phase of upgrades planned in Colorado to get systems statewide up to federal standards.
Glenwood Springs-based engineering firm SGM is helping with the design of the new plant, and its current plan repurposes 75 percent of the existing facilities. The current facility will have to continue to be operable while the new plant gets built.
If the funding is approved and the design process moves forward as planned, construction will start in 2017 and take 18 to 24 months.
If the district were to not move forward on the project, it would be subject to hefty fees assessed by the state. According to the TABOR notice sent out by the water district, the passage of 5A is “crucial” to ensuring the district is meeting federal regulations and avoiding higher rates for customers.
All residents of the district, including rental tenants, who are registered to vote can participate in the election, as well as any property owners or their spouses who are registered to vote in the state of Colorado.
They’ll also be voting to fill two board seats being vacated this term. Board president Joe Farrell is term-limited and cannot run again, and Shawn Gleason’s seat is up because he was appointed to fill a vacancy left when Dave Dawson resigned in protest over the district reinstating fluoridation in October, and Dawson’s term would have ended in May. Gleason and David Spence are running to fill the two seats.
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