Costs of plant improvements exceed funds

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— Estimated costs to improve Phippsburg's water supply and treatment facility keep rising, and Routt County commissioners are starting to consider funding alternatives for the project.

The county has received almost $250,000 in grants and loans, but those funds will cover only about two-thirds of the costs.

"Bids came in higher than expected," said Michael Zopf, director of Routt County's Department of Environment and Public Health. "Our low bid was $334,000 for construction only."

The community's existing facility can disinfect water and control corrosion, but under the Colorado Safe Drinking Water Regulations, the water also should be filtrated.

That means filtration equipment must be added to the water facility as soon as possible, Zopf said.

The treatment plant was built in 1980, and does not have enough space for the filtration equipment, so Zopf said a new building is necessary.

Because Phippsburg is unincorporated, the county manages its water supply. Once county commissioners knew the plant needed to be updated, they began looking for funding sources.

In July 2002, the county secured a $150,000 grant and a $38,500 loan from the state's Energy Impact Assistance fund for the project.

When the project's estimated costs rose unexpectedly due to the cost of acquiring land for the building and other factors, the county went back to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and asked for additional funding.

In the spring of 2003, the county received an additional $48,000 grant to fund the project.

Even with increased water rates, which Zopf said jumped from $57 a quarter per household to $84 on Jan. 1, the county is coming up short on funds for the project.

"Every single bid for the project is at least $100,000 more than what we had anticipated," Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

"It's going to be rather difficult to go back to the Department of Local Affairs and say, 'Whoops, the prices went up again.'"

Commissioners are discussing ways of dealing with the shortfall, such as finding additional funds or doing the project in phases, and could approve a contract for the improvements today.

Commissioners want to avoid raising water rates further.

"We're trying to be sensitive to the fact that this is a small community and that the majority of people who live there are retired," Stahoviak said.

Zopf said he's hoping the improvements will be completed next spring.

"The water treatment part of the project is mandated by the state and that has to happen," he said.

The planned improvements also would provide for an additional 30 taps, making the plant's total capacity 154 taps.

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