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Committee debates Orchard City water needs, rates

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To start Orchard City's water committee meeting April 10, a verdict of "no" was delivered to a citizen's appeal for a water bill adjustment. He claimed his high usage for several months was due to a water meter reading when nothing went through it, which according staff is not plausible.

The rest of the meeting focused on unfinished projects.

The Kaiser Road pipeline project pre-conference saw a turnout of six contractors. Staff and contractors recently did a walkthrough of the project, which is a half mile replacement from four- to six-inch pipe.

Bids will be opened on April 19 and the project will start around the end of May.Estimated completion time is about 45 days.

Also on the unfinished project list they reviewed items like iPads, the treatment plant's computer, and internet at the water plant

A large focus of the meeting was an item in the JVA engineering technical report. All trustees and staff are reviewing this report before meeting with the engineer in May.

This report indicated that, in accordance with what the committee expected, a new filter will need to be added to the treatment plant. One reason for the need is because, with the current population, the plant struggles to keep up with demand during high use.

Installing a new filter would also give peace of mind should a current one fail. Firm capacity is not high enough with the current filters, which puts the town out of compliance with regulations when usage is high.

Estimated cost for this project seems unusually high, but trustee Dick Kirkpatrick will to an evaluation to better estimate the final cost. Trustee Doug Keller voiced that he believes the town should focus more on infrastructure repairs rather than installing a new filter.

Staff disagreed. Keller's concern stemmed from the history of water loss, which may indicate the infrastructure is leaking. For example, the current water audit showed an 11 percent average loss. Las month's was 27 percent, in comparison with the previous year of 32 percent.

This report was partially an estimate due to snow accumulation January through March. Industry standard, they discussed, is 10 percent. Staff said another reason for the loss could be that old meters are registering less than what goes through them, which can happen.

Staff countered Keller that if one filter goes down, the one remaining will not suffice to keep up until it's repaired. This filter addition has been needed since 2005, they said.

Next they evaluated Keller's proposal for lower water rates. His base rate proposal would be $15.22 compared to the 2017 rate of $16.25. Based on his calculations, he said an average bill could be lowered $5 a month, which can be critical to those on a fixed income.

Keller used 2016 rates and a Consumer Price Index factor of 17.04 percent, then added an automatic three percent increase each year. The CPI comes from an evaluation of increase since 2009.

"This takes the argument out of raising water rates," he said. His proposal was apparently due to citizen complaints of the spiked water rates in 2017.

Kirkpatrick pointed out that they should look at CPI for Colorado, which is a little higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Staff seemed uneasy at this proposal, as it would tax the reserves more for the upcoming projected projects over the next five to 10 years.

"We have to look at reasonable responsibility and how we are splitting hairs on this," said Mike England.

Since the meeting was getting long, they decided to table the conversation for now.

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Orchard City, water
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