Rifle: Council approval of a $25.5 million loan application for new water treatment plant is drawing a lot of attention

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From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

The city has decided to pursue a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Authority to fund the proposed plant, and to ask city voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to help keep water rates from more than doubling. The issue has been appealed by Rifle resident and former Silt mayor John Steele, who turned in a petition signed by 300 people in support of his action. At the Tuesday meeting, City Manager John Hier and Louis Meyer, a professional engineer with Schmueser Gordon Meyer, the city’s design consultant on the project, detailed the history and problems with the Graham Mesa water treatment plant and the smaller Divide Creek plant.

The Graham Mesa plant was built in 1982 and uses technology from the 1970s, Meyer said. That has led to a lack of replacement parts and “fabricating” different solutions to keep the plant operating and meet water quality standards, Hier said. Meyer said the plant has a 4.5 million gallons per day treatment capacity, and the city’s peak demand in 2009 was 4.41 million gallons a day. “You don’t want to ever push a plant that close to the limit,” Meyer said. “You get all kinds of operating problems because it’s such an old plant.”

Meanwhile, some Rifle citizens want a say in the new plant at the polls so they’ve delivered enough petition signatures to force a vote. Here’s a report from Jenny Lavey writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

John Steele, a 12-year Rifle resident and former mayor of Silt, submitted a petition to place a question on this November’s general election ballot regarding city council’s recent approval of a $25.5 million loan for construction of a new water treatment plant. The petition was submitted to City Clerk Lisa Cain on Monday, April 30, and requests council either rescind or review their decision authorizing the loan amount, which in turn would increase the rate of Rifle water users to repay the loan.

Additionally, the loan would require a public vote for a half-cent sales tax hike for the city to be able to keep up with operation costs of the new plant. “It was phenomenally hard work, but very enlightening,” Steele said of gathering the signatures.

Cain must now verify every signature on the petition is that of a Rifle resident and registered voter, then notify Steele of by mail if his petition was accepted or denied. As of press time, Cain said she was reviewing the petition in accordance with the city charter and state statutes.

Legally, Steele had to collect at least 265 signatures of registered voters living in Rifle city limits by April 30. The petition had to be received by Cain 10 days after publication of the ordinance, which was done on April 20, according to Steele.

More water treatment coverage here.

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