The Basin Water and Sewer District Board may now consider a more detailed analysis of its water system after it learned that meters are not required to obtain the loan it is pursuing to put the Quartz Avenue pump house back online and install new curb stops.
It was during a recent work session that the Board was told by Great West Engineering Engineer Joel Pilcher that meters were not required for the $392,000 Department of Natural Resources and Conservation state revolving fund loan.
This came as a surprise to some Board members, including Chairperson MJ Williams.
“Boy, I’m just blown away, I’m telling you,” said Williams.
The community has been in conflict for months over the Board’s plan to install water meters as part of its project to put the Quartz Avenue pumphouse online and reduce chemical treatment and water use. To do so, the Board made a rate change that began June 1, and which included billing owners of unimproved lots $12 a month — a strategy allowed by state statute, but one that caused a good deal of consternation in Basin, as well as the plan to install meters. The rate change, which would include an additional charge for water usage beyond 10,000 gallons and assessed by the water meters, was designed to cover the debt service on the loan, of which the state was poised to forgive half.
“There is no one telling you you have to put in water meters for this project,” said Pilcher.
“This is actually new information for me tonight,” said Williams, who later said that Pilcher has been working with the Board on this project from the beginning.
Efforts to obtain a comment from those opposing the project were unsuccessful by press time.
The current project was based on a 2018 Technical Memorandum written by Great West Engineering which, in its introduction, said the goal was to evaluate alternatives to reducing chemical treatment usage and the feasibility of adding water meters.
The report also recommended installing water meters because Basin’s water usage far exceeded that of other similarly-sized communities. The cause of the excessive water usage has been attributed to leaks in the system. The Board had stated in information distributed to the community that meters would assist with finding the leaks. It also stated that meters were necessary to obtain future funding should more repairs be needed to the system, such as replacing the main.
During the work session, and after a lengthy discussion on the overall condition of the water system infrastructure, Pilcher said that the loan currently being pursued did not require meters.
However, the 2018 report states, “Additionally, funding agencies are also requiring the use of meters (Rural Development) or are requesting that the water utility demonstrate whether or not it is feasible to install them. For these reasons, installation of water meters is recommended for the community.”
The report goes on to list several possible funding sources, but did not include Rural Development as an option. Those descriptions did not indicate that meters were a requirement.
Rather than pursue meters, Pilcher said, and based on the discussion that evening that involved the system’s pipes and valves, the Board should focus on the distribution system itself.
He said it sounds like the Board needs to replace all the service lines and curb valves. Pilcher added that he didn’t feel that strongly about bringing the Quartz Avenue pump house back on line, either.
Instead, Pilcher recommended that the Board pursue a more detailed analysis, a preliminary engineering report, that could be done by Great West.
Pilcher said the PER wasn’t suggested before because the goal was to get the Quartz Avenue pump house back online as a way to reduce chemical water treatment costs in the form of orthophosphate and chlorine. It costs the District $8,850 a year for those two treatments — a cost compounded by the excessive water use.
Pilcher said his company could not do the PER for less than $30,000, but said that grants are available to cover part of that cost.
After that meeting, Williams said she has been in contact with DNRC and the Department of Environmental Quality for more information.
Everything is on hold until the Board gets more input, said Williams in a phone interview.
“We need some time to analyze it and make connections with people who can give us the right information,” she said, adding that water meters entered into the project discussion early on and it was indicated that they were a requirement for future funding.
It got misinterpreted that it was needed for the DNRC revolving fund loan, said Williams of the loan currently being pursued.
If the Board decides to move forward with the PER, it will take another year and a half to get the grant funding approved for that, followed by a few months for the report to be completed, she said.
The Board is having a regular meeting Wednesday, Nov. 4, 6:30 p.m. via Zoom or at the Community Hall where a computer will be set up for the Zoom meeting.