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Pagosa Springs
Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Town sanitation district awards project to improve lift station communication

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

A project contract worth $179,220 was awarded to Echo IT Consulting for an upgrade to the Pagosa Springs General Improvement District’s (PSSGID) supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

According to Town Public Works Director Martin Schmidt, town staff had applied for a grant to improve communications between the PSSGID’s lift stations back in 2019.

“What happens with our lift stations is they’re connected through the Internet. So, anytime the Internet is down at your house, the Internet at our lift station goes down,” Schmidt said. “It can severely impact our ability to pump sewage both at our large and small lift stations.”

Through research, staff identified a need to create a “intranet” or connections that the PSSGID could control that was not reliant on an Internet service provider (ISP), Schmidt noted.

“Basically, what we want is a very stable communication system that isn’t relying on somebody down 84 crashing into an Internet box and crashing our communication system for an unknown amount of time,” Schmidt said.

According to Schmidt, a grant was applied for through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), specifically entitled the Water Quality Control Division grant.

That grant was aimed at improving the communications network between the lift stations in the PSSGID to reduce the possibility of a failure resulting in a spill of sewage, Schmidt noted.

The CDPHE awarded the PSSGID with a grant worth $156,000, according to Schmidt, to which the district needs to match $23,404 of its own funds, creating a total project cost of $179,428.

Echo IT’s bid presented two options for the PSSGID to consider, one which involved buried fiber connectivity between the district’s different lift stations, Schmidt noted.

“This fiber connectivity would tie into an existing town/county-owned SCAN fiber and utilize a potential fiber swap with LPEA that’s in the works currently,” Schmidt said.

Fiber is the most expensive option, Schmidt explained, noting that this bid only comes “a couple hundred dollars” below the grant amount.

Another option that was described as “workable but not ideal” involves the use of cellular repeater towers with fixed ISP addresses, Schmidt explained.

“It would give us a lot of stability, but it wouldn’t give us that standalone intranet system,” he said. “Staff really feels like Echo IT has given us options to connect every one of the lift stations either with fiber, with an ethernet radio transmitter or with a cellular transmitter and keep us below the total grant amount.”

Additionally, staff feels like Echo’s bid allows for the PSSGID to choose the best connectivity for each one of the different lift stations, Schmidt added.

Town Manager Andrea Phillips noted that the PSSGID had budgeted to receive the grant and for the match as well.

The motion to award the project to Echo IT for $179,220 was approved unanimously by the PSSGID board.

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