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New PAWSD board meets for first time

Three new directors took seats on the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors. Elected to office last week, Michael Church, Glenn Walsh and Burt Adams joined directors Allan Bunch and Roy Vega Tuesday night to become yet another all-male board in Archuleta County.

Director Bunch was unanimously voted as chairman of the board and president of the district, and Director Vega was unanimously voted vice-chairman of the board. Church volunteered to take the post of secretary, and Walsh stepped up to take the position of treasurer.

Walsh also volunteered to sit on the budget committee. Vega will stay on the audit committee.

District Manager Ed Winton also suggested the creation of a Capital Improvement Committee with one or two directors as members so they can be actively involved in the process. The directors agreed to the creation, and Church and Adams both volunteered to be on the committee.

With new positions and committee commitments decided, Bunch spoke to the conduct of the board. “The moment we are gavelled together, we are no longer Roy and Glenn and Allan, but Director Vega and Director Walsh,” Bunch said, adding that the directors should act in a professional way and, “limit tangent discussions drastically.”

Bunch also advocated that there be one person on the board who is in contact with the PAWSD staff and district manager to limit the amount of contact between the PAWSD board and staff.

Winton said that, when there is undue familiarity between board members and staff, the employees are often put in a compromising position. While not certain of the details of how this arrangement would work out, the board acknowledged that there should be lines drawn.

The new board members, on their first night gavelled together, did make a non-conventional move. After a lengthy discussion, the board voted against a motion to go into executive session, opting instead to have the conversation with the district’s attorney, Evan Ela, open to the public.

Ela explained to the board that Tom Smith’s attorney had approached Ela with a proposition to rent, in no specific terms, a portion of the Dutton Ditch pipeline.

Smith owns property adjacent to Stevens Reservoir. In the process of building the reservoir, Ela said the district and Smith had “less than friendly” exchanges, exchanges involving litigation. Smith, Ela explained, is looking into building some residential properties on his property around Stevens Reservoir, and after looking at the inclusion and tap fees charged by PAWSD, is thinking about building his own water system.

“He was wondering whether PAWSD would be interested in sharing the (Dutton) pipeline with him,” Ela said.

After the conversation with Ela, the directors discussed the question.

“I don’t see any long-term benefit, and a potential liability if we enter into an agreement at this point,” Adams aid.

“The word ‘no’ is echoing in my head,” Walsh said, continuing to make motion to answer ‘no’ to Smith’s request. The motion passed unanimously.

In a projects update, it was revealed that PAWSD has been very busy.

The Highlands Lagoon Elimination project was completed and decommissioned on April 30. The cost of decommissioning the lagoon was $115,879.

The biosolids and centrifuge project (the biosolids greenhouse), according to project manager Gregg Mayo, should be up and running in the next 90 to 120 days. The sturcture is currently being built, and Mayo said that once the walls and doors are installed, the electrical work will be completed. The facility will be able to store a year’s worth of treated biosolids, and Mayo gave assurance that it would not smell.

A Request for Qualification has been placed in today’s SUN for the San Juan Water Treatment Plant Improvements Project. This project would make it so that water from all of PAWSD’s lakes and reservoirs, Village Lake, Lake Forest, Lake Pagosa and Stevens Reservoir, will be able to be treated and the water used. Presently, the only lake from which water can be treated and used is Hatcher Reservoir. A pump station from Lake Forest to the San Juan Treatment Plant will be needed. After this, an upgrade to the plant will be necessary so the water can be properly treated. The upgrade will include a total organic compound reduction facility. The estimated cost of the project is $2.75 million.

“It’s a major thing for us,” Mayo said.

PAWSD introduced plans at phasing out coin and dollar bill payment at fill stations and instead using a machine that will take both prepaid and credit cards, not debit cards.

There are plans to install a total of five Metron Farnier meters at all three water treatment plants. These metering devices have a 99.5 percent accuracy rating.

“Right now, we think we are producing one million gallons of water, but we don’t really know. We have a pretty good idea,” Mayo said, adding that these new meters will give an accurate measurement.

The joint town and PAWSD wastewater project is continuing. The Preliminary Engineering Report has been sent to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The CDPHE sent a letter to Bartlett and West, the engineers contracted for the PER, requesting clarification on certain matters. Bartlett and West responded, and Mayo is expecting the CDPHE to give the PER approval by week’s end.

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