Red Cliff in line for sewer grant
RED CLIFF ” Ramon Montoya has had a good week.
Montoya, the mayor of Red Cliff, learned earlier this week the town may receive a $400,000 federal grant to help replace its aging sewer system. That grant ” sponsored by U.S. Senator Wayne Allard ” is part of a bill that’s been approved in the Senate, but still must be passed by the House of Representatives.
The grant is a big step on the road to a new sewer system, but it’s not time break ground yet.
“This puts us well on our way, but there’s more to do,” Montoya said.
This year’s grant would go in the bank with a 2005 grant for $500,000 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. About $200,000 of that grant has been spent on engineering and other preliminary work for a new sewer system for the town. That new system will include a water treatment plant, as well as new sewer lines for much of the town.
Town officials had originally asked the federal government for a grant of $1.25 million. That much money, added to the grant from the state, would have allowed the town to do all the work at once.
With the town still several hundred thousand dollars short of the money needed to replace the lines and the plant, Montoya said town officials are looking at an option familiar to many homeowners.
Town officials are negotiating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan that would essentially re-finance all of Red Cliff’s debt. That loan would let the town build the new sewer plant.
The grant money would go to make the first payments on the loan. Water and sewer fees already charged by the town would pay the rest of the 40-year note.
A former town council member thinks there might be a better way.
“The grant is great, and the re-financing appears great on the surface, but it’s like buying a new car when you still owe money on the old one,” said Jim Bradford, a former member of the Red Cliff Town Board. “We’d pay lower user fees in the short term, but we’d be paying more in the long term.”
Bradford said using a long-term loan to build the new sewer system could, in time, leave the town in the same position it is now: in need of a new system but with no way to pay for it.
“I’m not saying don’t take the grant, or don’t re-finance,” Bradford said. But, he said, the town has also had talks with Eagle County and the Ginn Company, which wants to build a private ski resort on Battle Mountain, between Red Cliff and Minturn.
“We can’t ignore other offers,” he said. “They’re not free, but Red Cliff needs this.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
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