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Residents meet for water update

Phippsburg system built in the '70s needs to be brought up to date

Susan Cunningham

Louise Iacovetto and her husband, Ray, are native Routt County residents. Louise was born on a Routt County ranch, and Ray was born and raised in Phippsburg.

When they married and settled in Phippsburg, water came from private wells and pumps, Louise Iacovetto said. Wells continued to be the main source of water for the ensuing decades, until the state passed a law that septic tanks couldn’t be within a certain distance of wells.

“It kind of got to the place that it was a state mandate that the town be modernized,” Louise Iacovetto said.

The community formed the Phippsburg Water and Sanitation District in the mid-1970s and started work on central sewer and water systems. The first well and water treatment building for the community were built on the Iacovettos’ property through an easement and were finished in 1979.

Now, the equipment needs an update that will require building a new facility.

Work began in 2001, but construction has yet to begin because of delays caused by higher-than-expected project costs and difficulties negotiating an easement and land purchase from Union Pacific Railroad.

At the county’s request, the Iacovettos and their son, Elvis, offered to sell a portion of their property to build the new plant.

“We understood the dilemma, that every day it’s going to cost more money, every day that it’s delayed,” Louis Iacovetto said. “We could see that if the railroad wasn’t going to work, (our property) was the only option. We’ve tried to be cooperative all the way from 25 years ago, so we just kind of went for it.”

On Wednesday night, the Iacovettos and several dozen Phippsburg residents met with county officials to hear an update on the stalled process of improving the community’s water treatment facility. Routt County has decision-making authority for the unincorporated community.

Phippsburg’s facility can disinfect water and control corrosion, but under the Colorado Safe Drinking Water Regulations, the water also should be filtered. Adding the needed filtration equipment requires constructing an additional building. The planned improvements also would provide for an additional 30 taps, making the plant’s total capacity 154 taps.

Representatives from Civil Design Consultants Inc. displayed drafts of the planned building, which many residents examined closely after the meeting.

Questions that came up during the meeting included when the improvements scheduled to be finished last fall would be finished, why a bag filtration system had been chosen for the improvement, and why certain costs — such as design costs — were so high.

Increases in water rates, which jumped from $57 to $84 a quarter a year ago and increased again this year to $86 a quarter, also were questioned.

“What’s our water going to go up to?” resident Elaine Cina asked.

County officials pointed out that the community’s water costs, which are about $29 a month, are below the state average of $33 a month.

Increases in fees are difficult for many Phippsburg residents, as many are senior citizens on fixed incomes, Louise Iacovetto said after the meeting.

“It just stretches the dollar,” she said, especially when pension increases are about 2.1 percent and utility bills go up more than 10 percent. “That 2 percent increase in the pension just doesn’t cover it. They have to sacrifice some place else.”

Routt County Environmental Health Director Michael Zopf, with the help of Routt County Commissioners Doug Monger and Dan Ellison, answered questions.

Construction should begin in 2004 with the new water treatment building, and the well expansion work should be finished by late 2004 or early 2005, Zopf said.

That, he joked, should happen, “if everything falls into place.”

A bag filtration system had been chosen because it was the most economical means to meet the state’s requirements, officials said.

Costs were higher than originally expected because the project is small — meaning larger, out-of-town firms aren’t interested, which prevents more competitive bidding — but complex. The town’s water supply cannot be interrupted during construction, officials said.

The project is expected to cost about $515,000. That cost will be mostly paid with a grant of about $300,000 and a $131,000 loan from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The contract for the Iacovettos’ land has not been finalized but is expected to go through. Elvis Iacovetto said that although the new treatment plant would be at the bottom of his back yard, he doesn’t mind, as long as it helps the process continue.

“It was the only place that was available, and we didn’t want to slow the project down, so it wasn’t too hard a decision for us,” Elvis Iacovetto said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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