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City approves $5.2 million for wastewater treatment plant

By Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG– The $5.2 million waste water treatment plant the city of Walsenburg is looking to build took another step forward on Tuesday, May 18, with the City Council voting 8-1 in favor of funding the plan. 

    Walsenburg has been under a cease and desist order from the Colorado Supreme Court for the past two years.  The order seeks to force the city to build a plant that will alleviate the use of lagoons in the Northlands to treat the area’s sewage.

    The order was in part a catalyst sparking the annexation of the Northlands in 2008.  And if the city falters on moving forward with the planned WWTP the state may levy fines against the city at $10,000 a day until it complies with its demands.

    But tight economic times has left Walsenburg gasping for more money to punch up the budget in order to deal with the fiscal demands the city is facing.  And right now Walsenburg is finding itself about $190,000 short in funding needed to pay for the planned waste water treatment plant.

    City Administrator Alan Hein suggested that the city can find the money in the 2011 budget, a budget that hasn’t yet been built.

    “Part of the reason the costs have remained where they are is because the state won’t allow any adjustments in the plans that might reduce costs.  They are satisfied with the current plans and engineering and refuse to back off.” Hein said.  “So the project will take a year to complete once we start building and that will bring us into the 2011 budget year.”

    When the vote to move forward on the plant was taken eight council members voted to go with the plan while Council Member Craig Lessar voted no.

    “I understand that this is very much needed but I can’t see crippling the city to move on this.  I don’t see where we have the money to do this and assuming that we will find it in the 2011 budget isn’t good enough on this needed project,” Lessar said.

    According to Hein the plant operator and maintenance will be contracted out, calling the out sourcing of the plant operation a cost saving endeavor by the city.  When questioned by the public concerning the out sourcing Hein said no jobs are being sacrificed.

    “Certification is the question,” Hein said.  “We don’t have anyone that’s certified to operate the plant.”

    Walsenburg’s Wild Water Park has a new manager, Colette Wahl, and will officially open on Saturday May 29, to the general public.  However the admission cost is still being discussed.

    The Parks and Recreation committee reported that the city’s parks are ready to officially open. 

    Parks and Recreation Committee chair Dave Mockmore said that plans for the proposed skate park have been helped out with a $500 donation from the San Isabel Electric Association.  The proposed skate park will be built on the old tennis courts at City Park. 

    “Grandote has offered to hold a fund raiser for the skate park as well.  So the Parks and Rec. Committee will be putting together a golf tournament and fund raiser for the skate park at both Grandote and Walsenburg Golf Course,” Mockmore said.

    Huerfano County Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Lave asked the city to split the cost of liability insurance for the 2010 Black Diamond Jubilee.  The cost of the insurance is about $1,350 but with the city helping the cost would be about $675 each.  The council voted 9-0 to approve splitting the insurance costs with the Chamber of Commerce.

    In the City Administrator’s report Hein told the city council that the Martin Lake valve replacement is on hold until packing material arrives.  An inspection by state engineers on Sunday, May 16, showed that one valve had not seated properly and there is seepage occurring underneath it. 

    “Part of the problem is in a gasket that seals the valve in the pipe.  The valve manufacturer will work on seating the valve properly,” Hein said in his report.  “When that’s finished we are looking at Friday, May 21, as being the earliest day to release water to fill the lake.  And we are on budget with the project.”