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PAWSD works to finalize Capital Improvement Plan

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District is moving closer to finalizing its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and, in turn, receiving a completed rate analysis from its hired consultant.

Further work on a rate study by Red Oak Consulting is on hold until the company receives the CIP, which includes monetary estimates for the improvements appropriated either to rates, a capital improvement fee or a water resource fee.

In hours of discussion at a work session last week and at a regular meeting Tuesday night with Mike Davis and Wade Henderson of Davis Engineering, the PAWSD Board of Directors made strides toward a CIP that can be used in the rate study, in the process creating an outline to follow in caring for the district’s current infrastructure and determining what signals the need for more infrastructure.

Though still only a draft, and still undergoing revisions affecting who would pay for any potential improvements, the document includes 53 aspects of capital improvement for the district to work on between now and 2055.

Improvements in the plan are based on infrastructure age, as well as needed improvements to service a population growing at the rate accepted by the PAWSD board (a population estimate recommended to them by the Community Water Supply Workgroup).

While the planning horizon extends to 2055, much of the PAWSD focus is on the period before 2033 — a time when, according to the population estimate, the district could reach a full buildout of 13,000 equivalent units (a projected district population of 22,173).

Going into Tuesday’s meeting (revisions will be made following feedback from the board), a rough estimate from Davis for all improvements until 2055 came in at $163 million, down from $200 million proposed at the previous week’s work session. Of that $163 million, roughly $52 million would fall to rates, while $57 million would be paid by the capital improvement fund and the remainder would be funded by the water resource fee.

Narrowing the scope to the full buildout scenario of 2033 equates to a cost of $66 million — $ 30 million paid by rates, $21 million paid by the capital improvement fee and $15 million paid by the water resource fee, according to Davis.

Suggestions by the PAWSD board Tuesday night will likely signal another decrease in those amounts and will shift the funding of some items between the fees according to the board’s thoughts concerning who would benefit from the improvements.

For example, with the board indicating that lower district requirements for the amount of water stored at all times (110 percent of peak daily demand, versus the 130 percent that was the low amount in Tuesday’s iteration of the plan) would lessen the need for additional water storage before 2033, thereby lessening the need to build additional tanks before the district reached full buildout.

Other potential improvements outlined in the plan include expansions to water treatment plants, upsizing water pipes to increase water quality, creating small reservoirs (the topic of Dry Gulch is not explicitly noted in the documents), equipment replacement and more.

Although the document is not complete, the PAWSD board expressed approval Tuesday night, praising the easy-to-understand format that allowed the directors to better understand the improvements, potential timeline and associated costs.

With a good portion of the CIP work behind them, the PAWSD board members hope to forward the information to Red Oak soon in order to continue progress on the rate study.

Interim PAWSD manager Shellie Peterson also expressed hope during the meeting that the board would be able to hold a conference call with a Red Oak representative at the March 22 meeting in order to continue the progress.

PAWSD is expected to release the CIP to the public upon its completion, though the plan will be revised on a regular basis (every one to three years was recommended) in order to keep the plan current and in synch with the needs of the district.

On the topic of Dry Gulch, Director Roy Vega said at the meeting that the committee formed with PAWSD board members and San Juan Water Conservancy District members to look at alternative financing and ownership options for the Dry Gulch land and debt had made no progress and had not been able to meet.

The next San Juan Water Conservancy District meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, March 14, at the Pagosa Fire Protection District office on North Pagosa Boulevard.

The next PAWSD meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 22, in the PAWSD meeting room at 100 Lyn Ave.

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