Snowmass voters asked to approve bond for wastewater upgrade

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District wastewater treatment plant needs upgraded to comply with new federal standards for water quality. Because the existing plant will need to continue to operate during construction, much of the new facility will be built where the pond is now. The Snowmass water board this week decided to go to voters with a mill levy proposal that would fund a bond issue for the project.
Jill Beathard/Snowmass Sun |

Snowmass water customers will decide in May whether to fund an upgrade of their wastewater treatment plant through a mill levy.

The project, which the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District estimates it needs $19.85 million to complete, must be finished by the spring of 2020 to comply with new standards for water quality set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The water board decided at its meeting on Feb. 23 to ask voters to approve a bond issue for the debt of the project, which it believes will be less of a burden on its customers than a rate increase.

To bring in the almost $20 million needed without the bond issue, the district would have to hike sewer service fees by about 80 percent, said District Manager Kit Hamby. The exact ballot language that will go before voters in May is being recalculated, but as of now, the district estimates that its tax collections would need to increase to $1.68 million annually.

“As a mill levy, voters can write that off on their taxes, but if we increase service fees, they can’t,” Hamby said. “We’d have to look at a different mechanism to fund this … if we don’t get this approved.”

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. The district’s wastewater treatment plant was built in the late 1960s and has been added onto three times, Hamby said. Parts and systems that are failing will also be addressed during construction.

Because the existing treatment plant will have to continue to operate during construction, most of the new facility will be built where a tertiary sewer pond is now on the water district’s campus, Hamby said. SGM has begun preliminary design work on the project, which will start in spring of 2017 if a funding mechanism is approved.

The ballot issue will go before Snowmass water customers on May 3.

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Snowmass Village residents may be asked to bear tax increases from two other special districts this fall.

The Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District has begun design work for a new station it hopes to build on its Owl Creek Road site. The district has yet to determine whether it will ask voters to approve a bond measure this fall as it continues to consider other options for funding as well as assessing its needs. Fire board president Bill Boineau noted Feb. 23, when that body also had a meeting, that the district doesn’t want to place an undue burden on taxpayers in light of the water district ask.

The Aspen School District also came to the Snowmass Village Town Council earlier this month asking it to consider some additional funding for local education. Unwilling to consider a sales tax increase in light of its already controversial 10.4 percent combined rate, the elected officials are considering alternatives such as repurposing a mill levy currently collected to pay off the debt on the Droste property, now part of the public Sky Mountain Park.

But once again, Mayor Markey Butler cautioned that the body needed to weigh the other financial burdens being put on the town’s residents. Any tax increase or repurposing would require a vote.


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