The city of Steamboat Springs and the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District have settled a financial dispute that began more than 20 years ago.
On Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council gave preliminary approval to accepting $30,504 as compensation for two decades of water treatment payments the city made to Mount Werner for treatment services that were never rendered. City Councilman Paul Strong said the dispute involved a Mount Werner meter that tallied wastewater treatment in the Fish Creek area. The meter also measured - and billed for - wastewater that flowed to Sundance Plaza and was treated by the city, not Mount Werner.
"We were processing that water even though they were collecting the fees," Strong said.
Strong said the wrongful payments began "20 to 30 years ago," and were discovered in the late 1990s.
"We are pleased to reach this comprehensive settlement with the city on the issue of water and wastewater service in the Sundance/Anglers area. This settlement addresses longstanding financial and operational issues in that area," Mount Werner officials said in a prepared statement. "The spirit of cooperation between the city and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District has grown stronger over the past year, and we believe this settlement is a reflection of that attitude. The issue was complex and we believe the outcome is an equitable solution for both parties."
Mount Werner District Manager Jay Gallagher cou-ld not be reached Wednesday.
Tuesday, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve a first reading of an ordinance approving the settlement. City Councilman Ken Brenner voted against the ordinance, saying $30,000 is not an adequate payment from Mount Werner.
"They collected 20-plus years of wastewater treatment fees, and yet never provided a service to Steamboat Springs," Brenner said. "I think there is a much more significant debt."
City Council President Susan Dellinger also expressed concern with the amount. "I'm pretty disappointed that a major community player could only come up with $30,000 of other people's money," Dellinger said.
City Finance Director Don Taylor said the calculation leading to the settlement accounted for "partial offsets" such as unmetered city use of Mount Werner water "in some areas."
"There were a number of factors that went into this compromise," Taylor said.
Brenner, Strong and city attorney Tony Lettunich said Mount Wer-ner is improving the district's relationship with the city, after years of contention.
"There have been different people on different sides who think the other side has not treated them fairly," Strong said, adding that "a four-hour conversation" would be needed to chronicle disputes between the city and Mount Werner.
"We have a better working relationship at this time," Strong said.
"This has been a confusing area, but this (settlement) wraps up all the interconnectedness issues, and we can move on," added Lettunich. "I really think that we're done with this."
The council is scheduled to act on a second and final reading of the ordinance May 15.