City expanding wastewater treatment plant

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— Like other such agreements between the city and the Mount Werner water district, an attempted compromise on an expanded wastewater treatment facility has wound up in the toilet.

After failing to reach an agreement to share the costs of expanding Steamboat's wastewater treatment plant with the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the city decided Friday to go ahead with the 1.6 million gallon per day expansion on its own.

According to a written statement from the city manager's office, the city was unwilling to submit to the proposal offered by the Mount Werner district, which the city manager said would take away from the city's authority in running the wastewater treatment plant.

The city has estimated the construction costs of expansion at $11 million.

With a wastewater treatment plant that is near its limit, if not over it, according to city officials, the city has been attempting to close the deal on an expansion of the plant.

The Mount Werner district is currently in the midst of a 25-year contract ending in 2005 with the city to use the treatment plant near the Yampa River in the west of Steamboat area.

City Manager Paul Hughes cited "insurmountable differences" between the current agreement and Mount Werner's new proposal as the reason for the inability to reach an agreement. Both Hughes and City Council members referred to a potential loss of power in dictating capacity and allocation issues as one of the reasons for refusing the proposal.

Representatives from the Mount Werner district, however, don't think the city gave the proposal, or the water board, a fair chance.

"We sent the city a proposal. We were looking forward to negotiating," said Mount Werner District Manager Dan Birch. "The city's not ready to sit down and about these issues. It seems the city is just trying to unilaterally impose conditions."

As of December 1999, the city had reached its wastewater treatment capacity due to estimates of waste production from new construction projects, said Jim Weber, the city's public works director. The city's wastewater treatment system is monitored by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. When the city's wastewater treatment facility reached 80 percent capacity, the state mandated the facilities be expanded. That expansion process, involving the city, Mount Werner Water and Steamboat II, all of whom use the wastewater treatment facility, has gone on for a number of years without actual construction beginning.

Steamboat II will remain in a cost-sharing agreement with the city, the city manager noted.

In 1995, the city took measures to satisfy the immediate concerns of the state, but these modifications were only temporary.

Weber said in the written statement the expansion to the treatment plant should be completed by March 2002.

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