Durango: Councilors hope to get $68 million wastewater funding issue on fall ballot

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

Durango city councilors plan to finalize ballot language Tuesday that will ask voters in November to approve spending $68 million on moving the sewer plant, but councilors haven’t decided where to put it, and voters likely will not know, either.

The deadline for completing the ballot question is a week away. If councilors agree Tuesday on what to ask, it will keep the timetable for construction intact while giving councilors time to consider options for moving the plant out of Santa Rita Park.

“We’re not in a hurry to pick a site,” Mayor Dean Brookie said.

If councilors don’t approve the question by Friday, it can’t be placed on the November ballot, and the project would be delayed by at least a year. Brookie is hopeful councilors will have a location identified before the debt question goes to voters.

City officials say they have looked at every possible parcel where a new sewer plant could go without finding a viable alternative to its current location in Santa Rita Park, and they are on a tight timeline to build a new plant that will meet state regulations.

But critics say there must be other options that haven’t been pursued.

Councilors considered a resolution earlier this month that would have formalized their intent to remodel and slightly expand the existing plant. But after hearing extensive public testimony, they decided to wait to pick a site to see if other options could be found. The same resolution could be back on Tuesday’s agenda.

Without knowing where the sewer plant will be located, it may be difficult to tell voters how much it will cost.

The Santa Rita Park plant remodel would require an estimated $58 million, and the city plans to ask for an additional $10 million in contingency money that could be used for the plant or other infrastructure projects.

If the city finds the ideal site for a sewer plant after the ballot language is approved, the city would have to go back to the voters if the project were to cost more than the $68 million, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

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