There will be no more free water from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, for any government or non-government entity.
All Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District accounts, starting June 1, will pay unmodified water bills.
That is what the PAWSD board of directors decided at its Tuesday board meeting.
“All taxpaying entities should be treated the same,” Director Roy Vega said.
Director Jan Clinkenbeard agreed, adding that once the district starts giving free or discounted water to a select few, it becomes a question of where it will stop.
At present there are 11 entities, with two more being researched, that either have a modified charge for water or no water bill at all. The entities and activities include cemetery irrigation, South Pagosa Park, geothermal stations, Town Park gazebo, the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and the Upper San Juan Library District (Sisson Library). For the month of June alone last year, these uses totaled nearly $5,000 in uncollected revenues.
Assistant manager Shellie Peterson enlightened the directors concerning how such agreements came to be. According to Peterson, the agreements started in 1992 as part of an inclusion agreement with Archuleta Water Co. However, the agreements expired in 1998. The agreements also included a cap of 20,000 gallons per month — anything over went unbilled. Out of the original list of parties, only the arrangement with the Chamber remains, yet there are 11 customers not being billed at present. By unanimous vote, the directors decided all parties will be billed starting June 1, all caps removed.
During the creation and passage of the motion, one question continually popped up: What is an EU (Equivalent Unit)? This discussion was lengthy, heated and produced no definitive answer.
“An EU started out as being equivalent to something,” Vega said. “It was equating to a single family residential unit.”
Director Allan Bunch said, as he understands it, an EU as used by PAWSD is a planning tool to determine how much water a house or building might use. The board and staff agreed that, as such, the current definition of EU was acceptable. As of now, the fixtures in a residence or commercial building are counted, and that number produces the EU, which is then used as a factor in determing billing status.
Bunch continued, stating an EU should be determined by an amount of water, measured in gallons.
General Manager Ed Winton explained the rationale for the current means of determing an EU: the more fixtures, the more potential for demand and higher water usage. It is the demand for water, Winton said, that should be the driving force for determining the EU on each residence and commercial entity, as well as the meter size.
During the discussion, Vega kept asking the same question: “But what is an EU equivalent to?”
It was decided that staff should have more time to research the situation and report to the board at a later date.
The meeting brought big news concerning water loss. A correlator has been ordered by PAWSD, but in the meantime, three pilot correlator tests have had a grand debut in the field.
Within the first week, a 30,000-gallon-a-day leak was found approximately a half mile from the PAWSD offices. The leak was located fairly deep in the ground — the water coming to the surface did not contain chlorine, a fact that has been attributed to minerals present in the area soil. Operations Manager Gene Tautges guessed the leak had been active for about a year.
The board approved $200,000 for the establishment and implementation of the GIS City Works Management program — an asset management plan.
The program will include hiring a qualified projects manager, as well as the purchase of computer equipment upgrades and software, consultant fees and the costs of any additional training.
Following discussion concerning ways to limit program expenditures and make them more effective, it was noted that the asset managment plan is needed.
Vega moved to implement the plan, with the expenditure made out of the 2011 General Fund. The expense could be pro-rated in the future if other agencies join in the program.
The schedule of fees and charges, Appendix B, was accepted in full.
The wording “Inclusion Charges” will no longer be used. Instead the district will use the term “Equity Buy-in.”
The question of a $7.85 per thousand gallon pumped, raw water charge in the fee schedule was considered. Some board members said the charge is fair; Vega indicated he thinks it could encourage illegal activity. “If you make this fee punitive, a tanker will drive to the nearest hydrant to pump water,” he said. “By giving this rate we have the risk of someone driving to a hydrant which could cause great harm.”
The fee was not changed and the schedule of fees was accepted with only Vega dissenting.