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PAWSD deals with water loss, code of conduct

Despite the efforts of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) to bring water loss down to at least 15 percent, December’s water loss percentage is up to 41 percent unaccounted water loss, the highest month in 2011.

“What else can we do? We said this was our main priority,” director Jan Clinkenbeard asked district manager Ed Winton.

Winton explained that what is presently being done is the cleaning of valve boxes; contracting with Davis Engineering for a water model to find the best place to install pressure reducing valves (PRV); and, after the water modeling is returned, the installation of two PRVs. After the installation, Winton said the impact would be monitored, and it would then be decided whether additional PRVs would be effective.

Another option Winton noted, though not yet advocating it, was to reduce pressure in the system to 20 psi instead of 30 psi. However, this is not yet an option being considered by the board.

“This (percentage of water loss) is very hard to justify to ratepayers,” Clinkenbeard said.

Efforts to clean valve boxes and input GPS coordinates of all hydrants and valves will continue. The water modeling by Davis Engineering is anticipated to be complete within the next couple of weeks.

PAWSD Business Services Manager Shellie Peterson then presented the board with options to refund, or refinance, the 2002 and 2003 general obligation bond issues.

According to Peterson, the cost of municipal bonding is at historically low levels, creating possibility for refinancing the existing issues to a lower interest rate. Peterson continued, saying that while this effort would incur costs, there would still be significant savings to the taxpayer.

The board approved Peterson pursuing this route of refunding of general obligation bonds, allowing Peterson to have further conversations and interviews with the two firms that PAWSD could choose for the refunding: George K. Baum and Company or PiperJaffray.

During the course of the meeting, though, tensions remained high among the directors — tensions that surfaced with the split board decision made last week to approve the intergovernmental agreement between PAWSD and the Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District (PSSGID). The IGA approval made it possible for a PSSGID-funded study to be conducted regarding the feasibility of having town wastewater treated at the PAWSD Vista wastewater treatment facility. The PAWSD board voted 3 to 2 in favor of approving the IGA at the Jan. 3 joint board meeting between PSSGID and PAWSD.

Twice during Tuesday’s regular meeting it was made evident that no opinions had changed regarding the vote. Directors Clinkenbeard and Windsor Chacey both voted no at the joint meeting; while directors Allan Bunch, Roy Vega and board Chair Steve Hartvigsen voted in favor of approving the IGA.

During the allotted time for public comment, local residents John Bozek and Glenn Walsh questioned the PAWSD board and staff, not only about the contents of the IGA, but additionally about the draft IGA not being made available to the public prior to the Jan. 3 meeting.

“Everyone talks about honesty and transparency, and, in this case, it didn’t happen, and you were not well-served,” Clinkenbeard told Bozek.

According to Winton, on Dec. 14 PAWSD called and sent an e-mail to town officials requesting they approve the release of the draft IGA to the general public. There was no response, Winton said, until the Jan. 3 meeting.

Bozek continued stating his disagreements with the IGA, telling the board, “I’d like to see the town pay a premium.”

“Our job as a special district is to cover costs,” Bunch responded.

Director Clinkenbeard, however, agreed with Bozek’s opinion, stating, “PAWSD taxpayers are not being reimbursed and it’s not fair.”

Walsh made his view of the IGA approval and potential treatment of the town’s wastewater clear to the PAWSD board, saying “I just want you to walk away from it.”

The public comment period continued for over an hour with a back-and-forth dialogue between the audience duo and the board members regarding the IGA terms.

The board also reviewed the Board of Directors Code of Conduct at Tuesday’s meeting.

While much of the document was agreed to, there was one particular phrase which caused disparity amongst the board. Under the general guidelines is a table of Do’s and Don’ts, which it states, “are meant to assist the Director in furthering the mission and goals of the District.”

Under Don’t, it states, “Bad-mouth a board decision or fellow Director,” while the correlating Do side reads, “Understand, accept and support Board decisions once made. View your Board as a Team with common goals.”

Director Clinkenbeard was not in agreement with the language. “I don’t have to agree with everything. I have a right, and I don’t agree with everything in the IGA,” she said.

Hartvigsen responded that Clinkenbeard does not have to agree with the inherent details of the board’s decisions. “It doesn’t mean you agree, but that you agree that a board decision was made and you have to support or detract from the movement of board,” Hartvigsen said.

Clinkenbeard, however, disagreed. “I’m not impeding the process at all. A vote was taken, and it still doesn’t change my opinion of the IGA.”

After two hours of discussion concerning the code of conduct, Hartvigsen said, “Let’s give the code of conduct some thought,” to which the board agreed, and the meeting was adjourned.

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