Improvements may tap water users

Operating costs will be responsibility of Phippsburg customers

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— Proposed improvements to the Phippsburg Water Treatment Plant are expected to impact users in the pocket book.

Although the county is seeking a $150,000 Energy Impact grant for the $227,000 project, water users will be responsible for picking up the tab for additional maintenance and operational costs.

If the county is awarded the grant and secures a $38,000 loan to improve the facility's filtration system and increase its water output, users could see a $4.46 monthly increase in their water bills.

Currently, Phippsburg water users pay $19, which is below the state average of $24, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Even with the increase, the monthly fee of $23.46 would still fall below the state average, she said.

Taxpayers are not expected to fund the improvements for the facility, which was constructed in 1977.

On Tuesday, the county became one step closer to securing the Energy Impact grant.

A local review committee consisting of officials from Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Yampa, Oak Creek, two county coal mines and the Routt County commissioners, endorsed the application after examining the project for close to an hour.

Members of the committee rated the project as a priority for the county although they expressed concern over the rate increase and the number of people the project impacts.

The water facility serves 124 water taps but county officials cannot ignore the plant's filtration system.

"This is something we have to do," Stahoviak said of the project. "We have no choice."

The county is planning to improve the water plant after tests in 1999 showed surface substances were infiltrating the water supply.

Further tests in 2000 confirmed the infiltration to the water supply, which is safe to drink.

Another reason for the project is the water plant has trouble meeting the public demand for water in the summer.

"There are times in the summer when the water pressure is so low that there is no water available," County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

Because of the committee's endorsement, the county will submit the grant application to the state's Energy Impact Review Board.

Stahoviak, who is on the eight-member board, said she expects for the committee to review the application along with others submitted from across the state this summer.

Stahoviak said the county's project has a good chance of being funded by grant money awarded each year by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

"The resources of Phippsburg are fairly limited," Stahoviak said. "I think there is a good chance a grant will be awarded."

Along with the grant, the county intends to fund the project with a $38,000 loan. The balance of the project will be covered by funds the county has budgeted for the facility.

Last year, the water system did have its share of problems. The county had to add $25,000 to the plant's $80,000 budget because of several water pump failures, main breaks and electrical control failures.

If the county is awarded the grant, county officials expect improvements will be done at the plant in the fall and completed by the end of the year.

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