by Carol Dunn
CUCHARA- At its October 12 meeting the Cucharas Sanitation and Water District Board enacted several changes that will affect water customers. The board voted to raise the late fee on customer payments. Chairman Art Pierce said, “I don’t look at it as a revenue source but more as an incentive to pay on time.”
Effective January 1, 2013, the late fee will be $5.00 + 1% on the past due balance. As an unofficial goodwill gesture, one late fee may be removed per year on a case by case basis.
The board perused a list of customers with water use overages and discussed charging them for those overages per the district’s rules and regulations.
The usage allowance for 2012 is 80,000 gallons per year. Referring to the list, administrative assistant Jennette Coe told the board, “We could have billed $6,765 for these overages.” Pierce suggested the district send a letter to each of the customers who have used more than their allotment and notifying them that the district will have to address additional billing. “Part of this is just educating people,” Pierce said. “If we tell them their water bill might go up, then they may pay more attention.”
The board also discussed the turn-on and turn-off fees. The current practice is to provide one free turn on and off per year, as long as the customer’s bill is paid.
The district will only charge a turn-on or -off fee if the account is delinquent. General Manager Bob Northup told the board, “The only time that it bothers us is when someone calls in January that they forgot to turn off their water, and we have to dig through six feet of snow.” He did add that it’s still better to do that than have to deal with frozen-broken pipes.
The board voted to return the rates on four taps at the Cuchara Valley Resort (owned by Bruce Cantrell) from reduced rates back to normal rates on November 1. Pierce said, “We cut him a deal, and he hasn’t kept his bill current. He hasn’t upheld his end of the deal.” Northup added that Cantrell was planning to tear down some buildings, but he has only torn down the warming hut half-way.
Marshall Moore inquired of the board, “Where are we on our augmentation going to phase 2 and 3?” The pond augmentation is in year two of a five year plan. Northup answered, “We’re not doing anything on that right now. We may know more about what we can do next month … after the election.”
Phases 2 and 3 involve water storage. Phase 3 (without White Creek Reservoir) would store 125 acre-feet, and Pierce commented, “That may be more cost effective than White Creek.” Moore said, “What I suggest is you (Pierce) and Bob (Northup) sit down with Doug Brgoch and have a planning session on how to take it to the next step in the next year, two or three.” Director Jim Howard said that such a meeting should be open to the public and added, “China is in the United States trying to buy water.” Moore quoted T. Boone Pickens, “Water is the next oil.”
On the subject of water, Pierce said he had been checking into the proposed mill levy increase for the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District. “As a board, as people, we need to all take a look at the big picture – not just our district but all of Huerfano County,” he said. “We need to be very aware of what can happen. We need to support this mill levy and start to get some money gathered, because the fight is on. We need to protect our county and our county’s assets. Our assets are our beautiful scenery and our water.”
The board voted to open an operating account at First National Bank in Trinidad, Huerfano County Branch. The treasurer, Jim Ludwick, was authorized to open the account. They then voted to withdraw all funds and close the district’s accounts at Community Banks of Colorado on or before 12/31/12.
A preliminary budget was presented to the board. It is available for public comment at the district office, 16925 State Highway 12, Cuchara. Pierce told the other board members: “Look it over very closely and be prepared to talk about it at our budget meeting.”
Northup reported that work on the Britton Reservoirs is nearing completion. Pond #1 has been breached and will be worked on next summer after it has dried out. The South Fork stream is flowing into pond #2. A special forest service prescribed seed mix has been obtained for reseeding on the project at a cost of $1,000 per bag.
He said the road work at the ski area went well. “They ground up two manhole covers,” he said. The crew also required 48,000 gallons of water for dust control during the work.
Northup said the district will begin land applying biosolids before October 31 on Jamesons’ fields. The sludge is being processed by having air passed through it. Northup explained, “The bugs eat all the food, then the bugs eat all the bugs.” There will be 35,000-40,000 gallons of sludge, which will require several days’ worth of trips with the spreader truck.
The district is ready to pick up a new 4WD Ford service truck. The purchase was approved in late summer. The board voted to certify delinquent accounts to the Huerfano County Treasurer, with two payments pending.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward