The Town of Paonia may have bankrupted itself. The town's been selling water it can no longer reliably deliver. For decades the water for every tap sold was already promised to someone else. When the recent water crisis hit, the level in the water tank was dropping day by day. The Town could predict a time certain when the pipes would suck air. They said nothing. The "leak" was coincidental. The problem is growing demand and shrinking supply of water.
According to numerous engineering reports, fulfilling Paonia's existing water obligations will require investments including a 100-foot-high dam and a reservoir 8 times the volume of the one the town has its eye on. Also miles of ditch upgrades, pipe lines, millions of dollars in new tanks and repairs to existing tanks. Also more acre feet of water (water diverted from agriculture). Based on earlier estimates, this will easily cost over $15 million and add $60+ to every water bill.
The most recent Paonia audit values the town's water and waste water funds combined at $10.2 million (assets of $14.9 million minus $4.7 million debt). The total assets of the town are valued at only $19.3 million with liabilities of $5.5 million ($19.3 minus $5.5 = $13.8 million). When obligations exceed assets, foreclosure and bankruptcy are common results.
Now consider the town's current thirst for economic development and annexation. Economic development is synonymous with water sales and Colorado annexation law requires the town actually provide municipal services to annexed areas. The Town of Paonia has no water to sell. It obviously cannot take care of the streets it already has, and by selling our water taps over and over, it has breached the contract with those pre-annexation agreements expansion relies on.
This is going to affect us all. Our officials have failed. The water system is a mess. It's time to form a Board governing water, elected at large from the entire community that relies on "Paonia" water.