New water commission proposed

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— The remaining members of the water focus group have developed a proposal for a Steamboat Springs Water Commission.

The proposal, which was given to City Council last week, calls for a seven-member board with four representatives from the city's service district, two from the Mount Werner Water service district (one of whom is from the Tree Haus sub-district) and one from the Steamboat II service district.

Focus group member Bill Martin said the new commission would be a recommending body with similar powers to the city's planning and parks and recreation commissions. The board would be appointed by the City Council and be comprised of residents who live within the districts they represent.

The commission would look at ways to create greater efficiencies for existing services, review proposals for new services and integrate long-range water and wastewater planning with the city and county community plans. The board also would review water rights applications by the city and special districts, water and wastewater rates, plant investment fees and dispute resolutions between the different districts.

"We would be a citizens body focused just on water issues," Martin said.

Under the proposal, meetings would be held at least quarterly.

Martin said the group's proposal should be "talking points" for the council, and it is up to council members to decide whether the commission should be formed.

Councilman Loui Antonucci, who has been the council representative on the water focus group, said the commission would have more time than the City Council to study water issues and would be able to help the council in water and sewer decisions during the next few years.

The city's 25-year sewer agreement with Mount Werner Water and two other districts is set to expire next year. Providing water and sewer services to the west-of-town area will be discussed increasingly as the city grows.

The intent is for the water focus group, which has a tumultuous 18-month history, to morph into the water commission.

The water focus group was created in 2002 after voters turned down the formation of a joint water authority. The original intent was for members of the Mount Werner Water Board and residents of the city service district to continue looking at ways to consolidate the city and district's water and sewer systems.

Martin said it didn't take long for the board to realize that consolidation was not going to happen in the near future. From there, the board talked about common interests such as a pending lawsuit and the expiring sewer agreement.

The two factions did not agree on many things, such as if the meetings should be tape-recorded, if the city and district should look back at 30 years of negotiations and if a water focus group should exist.

In December, the water focus group agreed to form a committee to look at the group's policies, goals and objectives.

In June, Mount Werner Water District wrote a letter stating it did not want its board members to be part of the group. The district said it would send members from the board to the water focus group meeting when matters arose concerning the district.

After receiving the letter, the council asked the remaining members -- Martin, Paul Stettner and Jim Engelken -- to look at what role the water focus group should have.

"The water focus group is morphing into a different entity," Martin said. "It is taking on new responsibilities and a new life."

The council is scheduled to talk about the proposed water commission at its Sept. 7 meeting.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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