Mount Werner district to pay

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— The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District will take financial responsibility for inadequate fire flow in seven Steamboat Springs neighborhoods, its board of directors said Thursday.

Board members also are pushing to complete all im----provements to the water system by the end of the 2007 fiscal year -- earlier than originally planned.

In late August, the district published a report stating that seven neighborhoods had inadequate fire flow, which is the amount of water and water pressure that comes out of a fire hydrant. The areas with low fire flow include: Ridge Road, Anthony Circle, Laurel Lane, Timothy Drive, a portion of Ski Trail Lane, Long Thong Road and part of Burgess Creek Road.

Homeowners in the Ridge Road Community Association said in August that the district knew about inadequate fire flows since 1981 and should be responsible for paying to bring the system up to the city's fire code standards.

About a dozen residents who live in the water district attended Tuesday's board meeting. Several residents requested a chance to comment after the board's fire flow discussion.

"We don't understand what you're going to do," Dorian Welch said. "Your customers are sitting here, and you haven't dealt with them fairly and squarely."

Resident Bill Moser asked the board to set a positive course of action.

"If we have a positive outlook, we're going to be on course to do something right," he said.

Board President Tim Borden said his group would try to do that.

"We've taken this quite seriously. We'll make every effort to do that," Borden said.

Borden then said the board has known about the fire flow issue and that dealing with it has been an evolutionary process.

"Fire flow is not entirely within our control," Borden said.

Borden also addressed homeowners' previous complaint that the board should never have included developers in its makeup. Don Valentine, who was involved in developing six of the seven subdivisions identified in the report, sat on the water board from 1967 to 2004, when many of the water lines were installed.

Borden said there was nothing unusual about Valentine's appointment.

"That's the nature of this business," he said.

Board member Jon Hal--verson, who was chairman of the committee that wrote the report, then summarized customers' letters.

Most residents said they were not aware of the low fire flow when they moved in, and most said the district should pay for necessary improvements. One letter writer did not seem to understand that the district's money comes from its customers, Halverson said.

"It's your money," he said.

Halverson suggested the board pay for the improvements outlined in the report.

Borden was concerned that the board didn't know how much the improvements would cost and that they may exceed the district's $6.2 million in reserves.

"I'm reluctant to say how it should be paid," Borden said.

Halverson disagreed, saying everyone should walk away from the meeting knowing who would bear the cost of improvements.

"I think we should agree to pay the full cost without knowing exactly what it's going to be," Halverson said. "We have the power to raise money." The district can increase revenue by creating a charge for the improvements.

Board member Bob Milne and Vice President Nancy Mayer agreed.

"The district should make it clear to the public that we will pay for it," Milne said.

In addition to voting in favor of the district paying for the improvements, board members also voted to authorize Bob Stoddard, the district manager, to conduct engineering and design cost estimates for the improvements. The board also agreed with the City Council's recommendation that the rest of the city be inspected for fire flow problems.

Halverson also recommended that the board narrow its timeline for making improvements. Originally, the deadline was for the end of the 2008 fiscal year, but Halverson wants all improvements to be made during the 2006 fiscal year, with the exception of a new tank above Ridge Road.

That project will have to wait because of administrative and construction issues, Stoddard said.

The board approved the new timeline and amended the deadlines listed in the original report.

Until the fire flow problems are fixed, new homeowners who tap into the sewer system will get letters describing the low fire flow issue.

After the fire flow discussion, several residents thanked board members for their efforts.

"Thank you for your thoughtful process and actions today," Alan Geye said.

After the meeting, Kathy O'Rourke, president of the Ridge Road Community Association, said she was pleased with the board's decisions. She was happy to learn that board members and city officials are pushing to evaluate fire flow needs across Steamboat Springs.

"It's not only good for us, it's good for the whole district, the whole city," she said.

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