Council: Fire flow a concern

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City Council members are concerned about neighborhoods in the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District that might not have enough water to fight fires.

But some Steamboat Springs City Council members said they wanted more information before commenting about the district's report.

Earlier this year, the Mount Werner Water District published a report that stated that seven neighborhoods in its district had inadequate fire flows. Those areas are along Ridge Road, Anthony Circle, Laurel Lane, Timothy Drive, Longthong Road and portions of Ski Trail Lane and Burgess Creek Road.

The report discussed when and how those systems were developed and detailed previous fire-flow reports. It also proposed ways to fix the fire flows, but district officials haven't determined who should pay for the upgrades.

Fire flow is a measure of the amount of water and the water pressure coming out of a fire hydrant. Industry standards gauge how much fire flow is needed by looking at the density of a neighborhood, building materials and building usage.

The district is soliciting feedback about the fire-flow report until its Sept. 29 board meeting. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Steve Ivancie requested that the city respond to the report.

"This is just simply too important to ignore. In my opinion, it is a life-safety issue" Ivancie said. "I think we should deal with it."

Although more than 95 percent of the district is within city limits, the district is its own governmental entity. The Board of Routt County Commissioners is its oversight body. The city and district have had a rocky past, trying various times to consolidate their services but never able to work out differences.

Council members agreed to discuss the fire-flow issue at their Sept. 20 meeting and to come up with questions the city should ask district officials. They also directed staff to write a letter to the district encouraging members to attend the Steamboat Springs Water Commission meeting Monday.

The Water Commission is composed of representatives from the city and three water districts. The low fire-flow issue was discussed at the commission's previous meeting, but Ivancie said the commission was at a disadvantage because no representatives from the Mount Werner Water District attended the meeting.

Ivancie and Councilman Ken Brenner urged that the city comment about the low fire-flow report before the Sept. 29 meeting.

"This is about safety, this is about people's homes. It affects their safety. It affects their insurance rating, the value of their home, not to mention the knowledge they may not have adequate fire protection in the event of a fire," Brenner said. "I don't think we are overreacting. I say this is a big deal."

Other council members thought it would be prudent to let district officials discuss the report and gather public feedback before the city comments about the issue.

"We are trying to work in partnerships," Council Presi--dent Paul Strong said. "How would the council feel if, on a diverse issue, some other governmental entity held a meeting to talk about it when we have our process going on?"

Councilwoman Kathy Con--nell stressed the importance of getting Mount Werner Water District representatives to answer questions about the low fire-flow areas.

One group of homeowners is particularly alarmed with the inadequate fire flows. Many Ridge Road homeowners think the district short-changed the water system when it was installed in 1974, knew about the inadequate fire flows since 1981 and should be responsible for paying to bring the system up to city and national fire-code standards.

"I am asking for your help," said Kathy O'Rourke, president of the Ridge Road Community Association. "This is a serious issue. It affects everything. You are putting us at risk and our homes at risk."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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