Oak Creek seeking funds for water-treatment plant

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— Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman and Town Clerk Nancy Crawford finished their first draft of a $300,000 Energy Impact grant request to be submitted by the Tuesday deadline for the current funding cycle, Rodeman said at Thursday night's town board meeting.

If Oak Creek is awarded the money, Rodeman said, it will be used to upgrade the town's water-treatment facility.

Energy Impact grants are awarded to Colorado towns affected by the energy industry. The money comes from a severance tax paid by members of the energy industry and is given back to the towns that are negatively affected by their operations.

Nearly 17 percent of Oak Creek residents are employed by area coal mines.

The money will lighten the debt load created by an $821,000 loan offered to the town as part of a Colorado Drinking Water Revolving Fund pilot program. Oak Creek was one of two municipalities in the state awarded the 20-year, 4 percent interest loan for water-treatment facility upgrades.

The project is expected to start this summer.

"Our water-treatment facility was built in the '40s," public works director Jim Photos said. "We got our money's worth, but soon we will not be able to meet federal standards for water quality with what we have.

"So far it has held together, but if something goes wrong when the operator is gone, we would be in trouble," Photos said.

Trustee John Crawford was concerned that if the town did not receive grant money to cover the $800,000 loan, the board would need to raise water rates to cover the costs of paying it off in 20 years.

"Right now we are wasting one-third of our water and we are barely making standards," Rodeman said. "The rates people are paying now, they won't want to pay in the future if their water isn't safe."

"We don't have a choice," water-treatment plant manager Stan Gale said.

In other business, Tom Bleuer informally asked the board to consider adopting a resolution against the war with Iraq such as other cities around America have adopted.

He read an example resolution, addressed to President Bush, saying the town of Oak Creek would like to see the nation seek a peaceful resolution to the current situation.

"I am not a Communist and I am not un-American," he said. "But I do not agree with what our country is about to do."

The board asked Bleuer to get on the agenda for the next regularly scheduled meeting. A resolution can only be passed by a vote of the board, Rodeman said.

The Egeria Park Roping Club asked the town board to write a letter in approval of its bid for a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to renovate its facility located between Yampa and Toponas on Colorado Highway 131.

The facility is open to the public and the user fees are club dues, secretary Linda Dilley said.

The board agreed to write the requested letter.

Routt County planner Chad Phillips presented several changes to the skyline regulations being drafted by the Board of County Commissioners.

"When I came before, I believe the town board was not in favor of the regulations because they were concerned about the impact on personal property rights," Phillips said. "You were also concerned about exemptions for vacant lots that have already been platted."

Those exemptions have been removed from the current regulations draft, he said.

The board reviewed the changes, but their concerns about property rights remained.

"You are flat out taking away my private property rights," Trustee Mike Kien said. "This is unconstitutional."

Kien was also concerned that his property value would go down if the regulations were implemented, he said.

"If the view goes away because the skyline is full of houses, your property value will go down," Phillips said.

The board agreed it was interested in a set of guidelines, but not in regulations.

The board also discussed the disputed bill sent to the town by the Rout County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services rendered last fall while the town was without a police force. Rodeman feels the bill exceeds the amount agreed to in the contract.

"We will pay our bills if we owe them," Rodeman said.

Trustee J. Elliott suggested the matter be taken to an arbitrator.

Rodeman sent a letter to the Routt County commissioners last week looking for a compromise. She has not received a response, she said.

"In my mind, the ball is in their court," she said.

"Cargo's right," Crawford said. "But I don't think this is going to go away."

"If they want more money than we agreed to with the contract, then they should ask for it in those terms and not call us deadbeats," Kien said.

The board instructed town staff not to pay more than the contracted amount without first bringing it for a vote.

"We still have their check for the agreed amount if they want it," Rodeman said.

n Oak Creek resident Linda Price offered the town $1,500 for one and a half lots of town-owned property. The board asked Public Works Director Jim Photos to pursue a survey of the lots before a sale can be made.

n The board voted to split the bill 50/50 for snow removal on the strip of land between the Pocket Park and the car wash with business owner Bill Norris.

n Discussion of the Sierra View Development was tabled because a representative from the development group was not present.

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