Water line upgrade, candidates on ballot
If you live in Vail, you’ll have a choice to make during Tuesday’s May 4 ballot on how you want to pay for $9.3 million in water-system improvements and expanding water supplies.
The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which spans the eastern half of Eagle County and provides water and sewer service to Vail, has a multiple choice ballot question. Voters have the choice of funding the water-system improvements by approving a property tax increase or paying higher water bills.
Approving the property tax increase will raise taxes on a $500,000 residential property by $55.50. If voters turn thumbs down on that, the price of their monthly water bill will go up 25 percent. That will cost an average residence of 3,000 square feet or less an additional $68.75 per year.
Money from the increased water rates will be used to pay off revenue bonds the district will use to fund the improvements. Assuming additional debt requires voter approval.
The driving force behind the ballot question is the precarious state of Vail’s 30-year-old cast iron water mains, according to district officials. The old, brittle mains are breaking with increasing frequency, necessitating expensive repairs, the district said.
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The lines can break when the ground heaves or moves and are additionally stressed when the ground freezes and thaws. New pipes are made of stronger and more flexible materials and don’t break as easily. Several of the original water mains in Vail have broken in Vail Village and West Vail during the last three years, requiring emergency repairs.
“To pay for the size and scope of the needed capital improvements to Vail’s 30 year-old water system, we have to issue the revenue bonds either way,” said Dennis Gelvin, general manager of the water and sanitation district. “If the voters allow us to convert them to general obligation bonds, then we can repay the bonds through a small increase in property taxes which benefits the taxpayer since property taxes are deductible from state and federal income tax.
“If the voters do not allow us to convert them then the bonds have to be repaid through revenues, which translates into larger increases in water rates and tap fees for our customers,” he added.
Part of the money will be used to acquire water and to expand the Black Lakes reservoir atop Vail Pass and the Eagle Park reservoir east of Camp Hale. Both supply water to the upper valley in winter.
That storage, an additional 125 acre-feet at Black Lakes and approximately 500 acre-feet at Eagle Park, will cost $1.1 million. The dam and spillway at Black Lakes will be raised about a foot while a pump will be installed to push approximately 500 acre-feet from the East Fork of the Eagle into Eagle Park. An acre-foot can supply the water needs of a family of four for a year; it covers an area the size of a football field approximately a foot deep.
A portion of the money will be used to acquire 1,250 acre-feet from the Flat Tops Ranch near Toponas in southern Routt County. The district is also wants $2 million to build a water tower in West Vail to help boost water pressure for fire protection.
Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.
What the money will buy:
– Replacing water mains in Vail Village and elsewhere over next three years: $4.2 million.
– Building a 2-million gallon water tank in West Vail: $2 million.
– Purchase of water rights from the Flat Tops Ranch near Toponas: $1.65 million.
– East Fork pump system and Black Lakes enlargement: $1.25 million.
– Expense of the bond issue: $235,000
Total: $9.3 million
Where to vote
Vail voters will be voting on the tax- or rate-increase question and to fill one seat on the water and sanitation district’s board of directors. Voters elsewhere in the water district will just be voting to fill the board seat. There are four polling places that will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.:
– Town of Vail offices, 75 S. Frontage Road; town of Minturn offices, 302 Pine Street; Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District offices at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion; and the Eagle County Ambulance District headquarters at 1065 Edwards Village Blvd. in Edwards.
To be eligible to vote you must be a resident of the Vail water sub-district, have registered to vote in the general election and have paid taxes on property receiving water supplied by the water district. Approximately 750 people voted in the 2002 elections.
If you’re planning on voting, be sure to bring one identification document, such as a driver’s license to the polls.
Hed: One board seat contested
Three seats on the seven-seat Eagle River Water and Sanitation District board will be subject to election May 4, but only one of them has been contested. David Veile is unopposed as a representative of West Vail and northwest Vail while Bob Warner is unopposed as the representative for Arrowhead, Berry Creek, Cordillera and part of Edwards.
In Avon, however, incumbent Mac McDevitt, an Avon councilman, is being challenged by Larry Pardee, a town of Vail employee, for a four-year term.
To vote in this election you need to be an eligible elector, have been a resident of the district for 30 or more days; own property within the district or have paid taxes for the property receiving water service from the district. Voters district-wide may elect board members.
Eagle River Water and Sanitation, together and through a contract with the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, supplies water and sewer service to approximately 22,000 people from East Vail to Wolcott, excluding Red Cliff and Minturn.