Council ready to renegotiate

Officials hope to re-enter talks with Mount Werner Water

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— The City Council is not ready to lose hope on consolidating with Mount Werner Water, even after the question failed at the polls Nov. 5.

At Tuesday's council meeting, the council unanimously approved to write a letter to Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District asking the board to re-enter the negotiations.

The council also agreed to send letters to members appointed to the Steamboat Springs Water Authority board by the council, which would have been instituted if the ballot issue passed.

The letter will ask the members if they want to be part of a focus group in forming a water authority.

After the failure of the water agreement, City Council President Kathy Connell said she would meet with John Fetcher, a longtime manager of Mount Werner Water and part of the negotiating team to consolidate the city and district's water and sewer systems.

"John Fetcher and I continue to be bullish about the fact that we need to look toward consolidating and we do not want to loose the momentum," Connell said. "We want to bring Mount Werner back to the table, to write a letter saying we believe water consolidation is good for the community."

Connell recommended that the appointed committee act a focus group for the negotiations. In early October, the city appointed three members Paul Stettner, Nancy Mayer and Bill Martin. The Mount Werner Water Board appointed four members Fetcher and current board members Joe Brennan, Tim Borden and Mark McElhinney.

"The time is right," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said. "We have people who are interested, and it would be a very positive way to engage them."

Even if negotiations are successful, Connell said it is still too late to stop city rates from increasing. Connell said the council could approve the rate hikes as early as December.

But a consolidation would save the city close to $285,000 in capital improvements by not having to expand its maintenance building.

"We are not able to delay dealing with water rates, but we could delay dealing with capital expenditures," Connell said.

To consolidate, the city would have to hold a special election to amend its city charter or wait until next year's general election in November.

Once the council reaches an agreement and adopts an ordinance, it is required to wait 30 days before holding a special election, which must be held within 120 days.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich also noted the city could not hold a special election 30 days after the November general election or 90 days before the general election.

Under those guidelines, Lettunich said the council could hold the special election six months after Dec. 5.

Councilman Steve Ivancie recommended that in this round of negotiations, more information should be brought to the council.

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