Steamboat Springs County officials grappled Monday with how best to fund a $150,000 improvement project at the Milner wastewater treatment facilities in the wake of a state withdrawal of energy impact grants.
The county began talking in August 2010 about improvements to the wastewater treatment plant it owns in Milner. The plant serves about 95 households and businesses.
The plan at the time was to seek a $45,000 loan from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to make the mandated improvements coupled with a $105,000 federal impact grant administered by DOLA.
Now, County Finance Director Dan Strnad said, the best options are either a relatively costly federal loan or borrowing the needed $150,000 from the county’s reserve fund dedicated to the Road and Bridge Department.
User fees collected from the taps in Yampa would be used to repay the inter-county loan, if the county decided on that option, and interest would be charged to conform to Taxpayers Bill of Rights requirements.
The federal loan option would come with an attractive 3 percent interest rate, but Strnad told the Routt County Board of Commissioners that annual oversight fees required by the feds would overpower the interest rates by requiring the county to borrow almost $208,000 to raise the $150,000 project budget.
Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health, said the treated effluent from three lagoons at the wastewater treatment facility currently is discharged into a dry
channel of the Yampa River. The construction project would result in a 1,000-foot extension of an outlet pipe that would reach the main channel of the Yampa River where flows are sufficient to render harmless the ammonia contained in the discharge.
A substantial rate increase for consumers is a likely result of the construction financing, Strnad indicated. But the commissioners won’t make a final decision about how to finance the project until they gather more information about how much interest to charge and whether to charge the wastewater customers in Milner for a portion of the annual management costs associated with the project and its financing. The commissioners discussed striking a balance between costs absorbed by the customers in Milner and those absorbed by the rest of the county’s taxpayers if in fact they decide to go forward with the internal loan.
They also are concerned about an upcoming cost of about $40,000 to clean and restore the clay lining in the treatment lagoons.
The county-owned treatment lagoon in Milner, and a recently upgraded version in Phippsburg, date to the late 1970s and early 1980s when a previous board of commissioners thought it was important to take responsibility for proper treatment of waste in the two unincorporated communities.
“We are accomplishing a countywide goal of having cleaner water,” Commissioner Doug Monger said Monday.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com