By Lisa Young

Staff writer

A brand new water tank and public works building will provide years of service to the town of Hotchkiss. The roughly $2 million project including both the tank and shop on Barrow Mesa is nearing completion.

The need to replace the aging tank has been in the makings for over 40 years according to Mike Owens, public works director. He said the original tank had been sitting atop the mesa since the ‘60s supplying water to the town and surrounding area. In the ‘80s public works drained the tank and found rust and pitting in the walls.

Town crews were able to make the necessary repairs but time had taken its toll. A few years ago another inspection revealed further damage to the upper cross supports due to rusting.

“At that time we were putting about half the amount of water in the tank,” Owens said. “The new tank will preserve fire protection for the town and extra storage in the case of an emergency like the one on Rogers Mesa recently with the big water leak. It’s a proactive measure that helps us keep sections of the town in water and the fire protection as well.”

In 2017, the town applied for a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant and reached out for funds from Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority which offers governmental agencies in the state low-cost financing mostly for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

The town received $800,000 from the CWRPDA and $550,000 from DOLA for the major water project. The new tank has been online since early July with the only complaint being the “brown” water appearance in the beginning.

Mayor Larry Wilkening said the new tank with an improved roof will serve the town and surrounding area for years to come.

“Because of the nature of the tank, it became a really high priority to get that done,” he said. “We did a domed aluminum roof to alleviate the problem of having metal posts inside the tank in water all the time, it’s a free standing roof. We’ve got a domed aluminum roof on our one million gallon tank up at the water plant so, we know that they work.”

In addition to the tank, the town had preliminary plans to relocate the public workshop from Highway 92 which runs through town. There was some talk of locating the new shop at the old wastewater pond area, but it is located in the floodplain making it cost prohibitive.

“A lot of the square footage in our old shop was really unusable. It was just cut up into little tiny rooms, basically ‘catch-alls’. Now we’ll be able to park all of our equipment plus some,” Owens said. “ So, we’ll have some room for growth.”

While replacing the tank, Owens said adjacent property became available and proved to be the perfect spot for the new metal 9,000 square feet shop. DOLA kicked in $997,000 for the new shop plus in-kind work. Ford Construction out of Grand Junction was the general contractor on the building.

“One thing I can say about Hotchkiss is they’ve always been proactive with the infrastructure. We’ve replaced everyone of our sewer lines downtown about three years ago. We upgraded our distribution for our water system replacing old pipes so we’ve been proactive,” Owens said. “I guess the next thing that worries me now is our wastewater plant … typically they get regulated out before they wear out.”

As with any town, technology is ever changing and stretches town departments to keep up. Owens is anticipating the need to upgrade computer programming at the water plant that went in 2010 “bringing it back up to speed.”

“You have to keep learning or you’ll get left behind,” said Owens, tasked with keeping the town’s water safe. He said having the new shop near the Barrow Mesa tank is a big advantage allowing his staff to keep close watch on the town’s precious water supply.

On Aug. 18 the town put out a call for citizens to conserve water by putting into place an odd, even day water rotation. Wilkening addressing water users in a press release stated that the restrictions will remain in place until further notice.

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