Agreement eases tensions about water

Sanitation District, city sparred after hydrants broken

The city of Cortez and the Cortez Sanitation District have entered an agreement that helps to lessen frictions between both governmental agencies.

The latest issue bubbled up over the summer when municipal leaders blamed sanitation officials for damaging city fire hydrants. City officials claimed that sanitation employees were improperly using fire hydrants on Roger Smith Avenue when filling tanker trucks used to maintain sewer lines.

“The district was breaking our hydrants,” said City Manager Shane Hale.

After the damage, the city banned sanitation officials from using city hydrants, forcing the district to obtain water from the city services center. Sanitation officials complained the measure created additional hardships and increased fuel costs.

This week, both bodies approved an intergovernmental agreement for the joint purchase of an upgraded Park Street water dock. The price tag for the water-filling facility, which includes an upgrade to a card reader pay system, is roughly $20,000.

Under the agreement, the CSD will fund $10,000 of the cost in exchange for free water from the city over a three-year period. Sanitation officials had initially requested 20 years of free water, Hale said.

CSD board member John Stramel was the lone vote of opposition against the agreement, citing concerns over the cost share.

“We didn’t have to pay for water in the past, why are they going to start charging us now?” he asked Monday at the district’s meeting. “Bottom line, we’re going to be spending more than $3,000 a year for water.”

CSD manager Tim Krebs explained the district’s water cost would approach nearly $20,000 annually without the intergovernmental agreement.

“This is a good plan for us,” he said.

The current coin-operated system has created numerous problems in the past, Hale said. The new card-reader system will still allow customers to continue using coins, he added.

“We’ve had to replace the coin mechanism every month,” Hale said. “The new card-reader system serves a greater purpose.”

To help alleviate future problems with CSD, city council member Matt Keefauver requested a memo be drafted that outlines all agreements between the two bodies. Both the city and sanitation district borrow equipment from one another when needs arise.

In other news, to streamline code enforcement, the city of Cortez moved forward with a new ordinance Tuesday that allows animal control officers to issue summonses and complaints.

“It’s a housekeeping measure,” said city attorney Mike Green.

Under the old ordinance, animal control officers, for example, are not authorized to issue tickets. Green told council members the new mandate would allow code enforcement officers to sign, date and issue any ticket on the spot without having to obtain a police officer.

“This just cuts the red tape,” Hale said.

Under the previous law, city officials said it could take more than an hour to issue a code-enforcement summons or complaint.

“This new ordinance does not prevent a code enforcement officer from seeking assistance from the police department,” Hale added.

Green said the new measure would simplify the process and save time spent by staff when issuing a summons.

Before formally adopting the new ordinance, a public hearing is slated for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24.