Council approves water commission

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The City Council approved a proposal to form a Steamboat Springs Water Commission, but not without hesitation from some council members.

At Tuesday's council meeting, the board approved a commission that would be made up of seven members from local service districts. Its mission will be to work with all regional water and sewer providers and customers to find more efficient ways to provide services.

"I am less than enthusiastic," Councilwoman Nancy Kramer said Tuesday of the new commission. "We are parting with our responsibility."

The City Council's approval comes 18 months after the set up and break down of the Water and Waste Water Commission that included representatives from the city water district and the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District. The group was formed to work toward consolidating the two water and sewer entities, but had trouble agreeing on many things.

The group argued about whether the meetings should be taped recorded, whether the city should look back at 30 years of negotiations and handshake deals, and whether a water focus group should even exist.

In June, Mount Werner board members said they no longer wanted to be part of the group.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell said the council should lay out the water commission's mission early and narrow its focus as quickly as possible.

"We need to be very focused on what the focus is, and what it is not," Connell said.

The proposed water commission would have seven members, four from the city's service district, two from the Mount Werner Water service district, one of which comes from the Tree Haus subdistrict, and one from the Steamboat II service district.

The council approved a proposal that would give the board powers similar to other recommending city bodies, such as the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission. The board will be appointed by the council and have four year terms.

Councilman Steve Ivancie, who was an alternate member of the old water focus group, stressed the important work the group would do.

"The old saying goes 'whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.' I can't imagine anything more important to the community than what direction this commission will provide for the council," Ivancie said.

Councilman Loui Antonucci said the commission could work on policies for bulk water sales, servicing the west of Steamboat area and working on renewing longstanding service agreements that are set to expire soon.

"I think this group can be quite productive," Antonucci said.

Under the proposal the council approved, the commission will 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's 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. Kramer suggested that working toward consolidation also should be part of the group's to-do list.

The council is accepting applications from those interested in serving on the commission.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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