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Northlands moves forward at snail’s pace

by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- Getting a sewer line built at the Northlands area of Walsenburg continues to move forward at a very slow pace.
Interim Administrator Don Saling told the World Journal that the Preliminary Engineering Study (PER) by Tetra-Tech is near completion. The USDA will base their decison about funding for the project on the PER. This PER is the third one the city has completed; the other two became outdated or left too many questions unanswered. The first two PER’s cost the City about $20,000 each. The latest one was an update from the second PER but still cost time and money.
According to Saling, the PER needs to be submitted to the USDA by the end of August. The agency will then review it along with updated financial information from the city and any EPA concerns. If all goes well, the USDA can then consider offering a grant-loan proposal to Walsenburg. Saling is hopeful the USDA can come up with a 45% grant and 55% loan proposal to make it easier for Walsenburg to raise their share of funds. The project will cost approximately five million dollars. If the USDA only comes up with a 25-75% share, the Northlands project could be delayed for an even longer period of time.
Proponents of the Northlands project argue that it will save the city money because they will no longer have to augment water for water used by residents and businesses located near I-25 & Hwy 85-87. A second benefit of getting the sewer line installed is that it would allow development of additional businesses which would create additional jobs and sales tax revenue for Walsenburg. (Many franchise type businesses will not locate to an area that does not have a sewer system). Currently there are business owners who want to expand in the Northlands area and others that have expressed interest in coming to Walsenburg when the infrastructure is built. Walsenburg has limited space in the older parts of town to develop industry or larger retail outlet space.
Proponents believe developing Northlands will help bring additional revenue to enhance the downtown area in the future, while helping bring jobs that can hopefully keep our younger population from having to look for work elsewhere.
Opponents of the Northlands project feel it could hurt downtown Walsenburg and say there is no guarantee that businesses or industry which develop out there would bring jobs and additional revenue. They feel the cost may not be worth the investment.
Since annexation 3 years ago, businesses like the Acorn Truck Stop, Western Convenience, George’s, Best Western Motel, Pizza Hut, Birco, Dakota Campgrounds and others now pay sales tax revenue to the City which they didn’t do previously.
While neither side has a crystal ball, if the city does not develop Northlands, the city may continue to show declines in population and revenue. The project continues to inch forward while the USDA prepares the information to see what proposal they can offer the city of Walsenburg.