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BoCC outlines proposed agreement with PAWSD

Taking another step in the ongoing debate between the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, the BoCC Tuesday approved a proposed outline to be used to formulate a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two entities.

Before approving the outline, BoCC Chair Clifford Lucero read a prepared statement which, in part, read, “Since 1977, the BoCC has failed to provide oversight to local districts. State statutes were written so that local government bodies, in our case the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, should provide oversight to ensure the county residents are protected.”

In reading the statement, Lucero noted that, while most states have public utilities commissions that see that debts and fees are not “out of line,” Colorado does not and gives that responsibility to the BoCC.

“We not only have the authority provided by state law, we have the responsibility to provide this oversight,” Lucero said. “We take this responsibility very serious. The county has a very full plate, but the community has spoken and we will respond.”

Lucero then requested that the BoCC and PAWSD meet in a special work session to finalize the details of the outline, at which point county and PAWSD attorneys would formulate the final MoU to be signed.

The outline approved at Tuesday’s meeting, while not providing specific timelines, discusses a number of areas to be included in a forthcoming MoU.

Under the umbrella of amending PAWSD’s Service Plan, the outline indicates that a deadline will be given to amend the Service Plan without BoCC injunction.

However, the outline states, “Parties agree that by entering into this Agreement the BoCC is not waiving any right it may have to later pursue a claim for whatever relief it may deem appropriate including, but not limited to, enjoining PAWSD pursuant to C.R.S. 32-1-207(3)(a) and that PAWSD will waive any defense based upon, or sounding in, laches or waiver by reason of BoCC’s delay in taking action to enforce its right.”

The outline also states that the BoCC would not pursue injunctive or other relief concerning the Service Plan before the MoU’s deadline or the end of the Community Water Resource Group process, whichever comes first.

The outline also states that PAWSD and the San Juan Water Conservancy District would take steps to eliminate directors serving on both boards, and that only one PAWSD staff member will serve on the SJWCD board at any one time.

When complete, the outline indicates that the BoCC would have PAWSD agree in the MoU to take whatever actions are requested by the current work group considering Dry Gulch and future water needs, and to ensure that the group is “not improperly constrained by PAWSD, its employees or directors.”

Also on the topic of Dry Gulch, the outline requests that PAWSD will take no action to further pursue the development of the Dry Gulch Reservoir until the work group presents its findings in a public meeting, but that PAWSD may maintain current land holdings or debt payments without incurring more debt.

Concerning the topic of debt, the outline states that current PAWSD projections show total debt by the end of 2010 at $43 million, with 5,356 taps sold and issued, leaving a debt-to-tap ratio of $6,282, a ratio that should not be exceeded.

The outline indicates that the MoU will call for PAWSD to provide the BoCC with its 10-year cash flow and capital expenditure forecast (based on an assumption of no growth) in October of each year. The outline also notes that the projections be consistent with the PAWSD budget and internal planning and that the document not be created solely for the BoCC.

The outline dictates that “PAWSD will develop a geographical informations system identifying its discrete service areas and showing the cost of capital assets employed in providing service to those areas, the expected maintenance and capital expenditures by year for the next ten years ... and the estimated cost of providing service to those areas.”

It also notes that this information would be updated yearly.

Lastly, the outline states that PAWSD will undergo a “comprehensive review” of its rate-making process, which would then be presented to the BoCC for review and comment by March 31, 2011.

At a minimum, the outline requests that the review include the definition of goals and objectives of the rate structure, evaluate the alternatives in meeting those goals and objectives, understand and communicate the potential effects on customers, and be tied to recognized industry practices.

The outline notes that an integral part of the rate is fees, which are to be included in the review, and that no rates, fees or charges be made without consulting the BoCC.