Building a town from scratch
A water and sewage system was designed, a natural gas company was formed, the underground electrical system was put in place, and the telephone company laid their lines underground.
To sum it up, it was a big engineering project.
Keith Brown, who was involved in the utility installations, said that the Holy Cross Electric Company was in the area, and it therefore seemed plausible that it would supply the electric needs for Vail. However, critics said millionaires were using the tax-subsidized utility to build their electric company. Yet, there was not one other electric company in existence in the area, so the criticism was rather unfounded.
Jack Tweedy talked to his friend Ralph Sergeant, head of the Public Service Company, and asked him to extend PSC’s natural-gas lines, or even take on the project on an interim basis with a central propane system.
“We got laughed out of their offices. They absolutely said that it was the silliest, dumbest thing they ever heard of,” Brown said. “It was so uneconomical they wouldn’t even consider it. That meant we were in trouble. How did we handle it? Again, (George) Caulkins, (Harley) Higbie and I came up with a plan.”
“Look, we’ll form a company and we will put the lines underground and we’ll do a central propane system,” Caulkins added.
Starting with a title that they had in the Caulkins Oil Company offices, called Title Facilities, Inc., they changed the name and formed Gas Facilities, Inc. It was owned by five people in the Caulkins office. The Vail group then formed a water and sanitation district. Jack Tweedy and Keith Brown had worked on the legal aspects and had arranged for Boetcher and Company in Denver to take the bonds.
In the mutual-bond department of Boetcher and Company, a meeting was held to form a water and sanitation district. With five people who had become legal residents of Vail, they voted in those original bonds. The bond issue amounted to approximately $500,000. It was rather humorous that five early members of Vail could go to the polls and vote for that amount of money.
But that’s exactly what they did, and with that money, they built the first sewage-treatment plant, which was about where the Vail Library is today. The treatment plant lasted about a year or two before it became inadequate due to Vail’s incredible growth. The engineers, as well as the Vail executives, had underestimated it. From then on, they had to keep building it or rebuilding it, enlarging the water and sewage plant every year.
The following year, bond issues about water and sanitation had to be voted on. Six Vail residents voted for another $500,000.
“That shows you the growth of Vail – it’s gone from five voters to six,” somebody said.
“The construction of those utilities was a tremendous problem,” added Brown. “For health reasons, sewer and gas lines could not be in the same trench. The going was slow, and as the winter season was approaching, people were desperate to get their homes hooked up. It was an ugly situation. But, like many other projects, it was completed on time.”
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 38th installment, an excerpt from chapter 5, “Creating a Plan to Make it Work.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.