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Walsenburg addresses sewer rates and faces gas line repair situation

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — A good steady drenching rain was exactly what many Walsenburg and Huerfano County residents had been hoping for, and it did fall early in the week. But, those storm systems caused a washout in a location about four miles south of Walsenburg resulting in priority repair need for a large section of the city’s gas line.
Walsenburg Administrator David Johnston said the location, east of I-25 that was affected by the water runoff, exposed a portion of gas line previously located eight feet underground, which, after the weekend rain, is now three feet off of the ground and exposed as it crosses the washout. The pipe is encased in concrete, which is already showing stress cracks.
Johnston said the city’s gas contractor, K.R. Swerdfeger Construction Inc., of Pueblo West, has estimated an 800-foot long section of the line will need to be replaced, if the affected section’s direction is changed, with a cost estimate of $60,000 to $100,000. Earlier this summer the city council approved a gas line repair bid from the same firm for $64,500 to fix six identified leaks in the main gas line that delivers natural gas to Walsenburg from Trinidad.
The new situation is a high priority, Johnston said and Swerdfeger personnel will inspected the area as soon as possible. Although Johnston called the situation a high priority, he did not mention any plans to brace, or shore-up, the section of pipe that is now exposed.
In a 9-0 vote, with all members present, the Walsenburg City Council Tuesday night passed on first reading Ordinance 1028, which establishes a methodology for computing the sewage processing fee for residential and commercial users. This action will help alleviate the high costs of sewer fees faced by many residents who use outside irrigation taps.
The ordinance explains a formula, not dissimilar to one of the proposals considered when city council voted early in the year to increase water and sewer rates, which allows for a flat rate fee for individual account holders. The flat rate is based, in part, on water use in the three months; December, January and February, timeframe in which consumers do not traditionally water their lawns.
The flat rate does not effect the built in costs within consumers’ sewer charges for debt repayment and repair and / or replacement of sewer infrastructure. (The full text of Ordinance 1028 appears in the Legals Section of today’s Huerfano World Journal).
For commercial sewer users, the flat rate is established in part using the calculations of the previous 12-month water usage.
For further explanation of the change, customers may call Walsenburg Utilities at 719-738-1048.
In another unanimous vote, city council approved on first reading Ordinance 1027, amending membership requirements for the Youth Advisory Committee, and repealing Ordinance 999.
One of the major changes outlined in the new ordinance will allow a member of the committee to be a resident of any part of Huerfano County, not just the city of Walsenburg.
Council also unanimously approved Andrea Hoegg as a new member of the Youth Advisory Committee.
The city council voted 9-0 to adopt the annual audit prepared by Rubin Brown and to forward the audit report to the State of Colorado. Both Mayor Larry Patrick and administrator Johnston said this will be the first time in many years the city has actually met the deadline to forward the audit to the state.
Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2013R06, which establishes procedures for designating Authorized Volunteers of the city of Walsenburg. This resolution will allow, for example, Huerfano World Journal co-publisher Brian Orr to carry forth with plans to stage a parade August 3 to recognize firefighters and emergency services personnel in the wake of the East Peak Fire. This resolution allows for the event to be covered by the city’s insurance policy.
In other business city council unanimously approved special use permits for the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation for a liquor license on behalf of the upcoming Walsenburg All-Class Reunion; Downtown Walsenburg Revitalization Committee for beer gardens at the August 3rd Taste of Walsenburg and August 9th for a PT Cruiser auto event. Council unanimously approved the liquor license renewal for Pizza Hut restaurant.
City council unanimously rejected a trade and cash request for Walsenburg Wild Waters’ passes for advertizing with radio station KSPK-FM. It was noted administration had contacted the radio station seeking a trade only deal, but station personnel never returned a call to the city.
Walsenburg Police Chief Tommie McLallen reported on the recent acquisition of four new-to-the-city police vehicles; one 2002 model and three 2004 model Dodge Durangos from the city of Colorado Springs. The police vehicles came to the city already equipped with sirens, emergency lighting and radios. Johnston noted the vehicles were equipped with new batteries and in some cases new tires as well.
Excepting the cost of lunch for the five people who traveled to Colorado Springs to pick up the vehicles last week, and cost of Walsenburg Police logos and installation of custody cages, the vehicles were free to the city.
The City Treasurer’s report indicated Walsenburg has $4,030,404 in all accounts.
A report presented by administration shows Walsenburg Wild Waters has a revenue loss of $16,041.32 as of July 14; and a year-to-date net loss of $19,014.
The next city council meeting will be at 6 pm July 30, 2013.