Pay now or pay more later

Bayfield trustees discuss infrastructure

Maintaining town roads and utilities in good condition is expensive, but letting them deteriorate will cost a lot more eventually, Bayfield Public Works Director Ron Saba told town trustees in a presentation on June 17.

Saba is in charge of the water and sewer systems as well as street maintenance and storm water drainage.

He praised the condition of the water and sewer systems and the work his department has done to map those utilities, as well as creating a master plan for street maintenance and storm drainage.

Saba said the water system is in great shape thanks to the town's partnership with the La Plata/ Archuleta Water District (LAPLAWD) that has the district paying to expand the town water treatment plant to serve both entities, as an alternative to LAPLAWD building its own plant right away. LAPLAWD started delivering water to its first customers earlier this year.

"The water system is in the best shape of anything," Saba said. "Bayfield can really be proud of its water system."

But he advised that there is around 500 feet of concrete/ asbestos line that needs to be replaced on South Mesa and Mountain View Drive. "We'll go after a grant to start replacing those," he said.

Town Manager Chris La May said the water system has a lot of debt, but a couple of loans could be paid off in about five years.

Saba said the water plant peak production day this year was 780,000 gallons. Without yard watering restrictions that now start automatically in mid-May, the peak could be above 1 million, he said.

Water supply is another issue. The town was pushing the limits of its supply last summer, but things should be a lot better this summer "unless something major happens," Saba said.

He said the town needs to get more of its irrigation water converted to municipal use and secure more storage water from Vallecito.

The town has some very early priority (P-4) water rights, meaning many other later priority users must switch to storage water before the town does.

The sewer system is in good shape except for the big issue of groundwater infiltration, Saba said. Bids to fix that have run well above the $900,000 of grant and loan money the town has secured.

Trustees approved the low bid on the 17th from Crossfire of $430,173 to replace some old sections of sewer line, well above the $300,000 that was budgeted for that part of the project. The other bid was from F&M Construction.

The single initial bid for the other part of the project came in at $800,000 if all planned work was included, versus the $600,000 budgeted. That project is to slip-line sections of line where infiltration is a problem and grout the joints where service lines join main lines.

Trustees have opted to re-bid that project in the fall when there might be more interest from qualified contractors and a better price.

"There will be some hard choices. This sewer thing has turned into a mess because there are so many unknowns and variables. Now we're having trouble getting people to bid," Saba said. The line replacement contract had to be advertised twice. No one bid the first time around.

La May said of the line replacement bid, "We have $900,000 total to address infiltration. We thought this (line replacement) was going to be around $300,000. The bids are well above that. So we'll have to cut back on the slip-lining before we re-bid that in September."

Saba added, "Our backs are to the wall. This sewer thing, it's been an animal."

He said, "We have (monthly sewer) rates that are pretty high, but a lot of years they weren't. A lot of the infrastructure isn't very good. The (treatment) plant is fantastic."

The entire sewer system has been mapped and computer modeled, and a capital improvement plan is in draft form, he said. "I have video of every line in town. I know where every service tap is. All the pieces are there. It's in as good a shape as the water if we can fix the infiltration."

However, debt service on the treatment plant "is eating us alive," Saba said. "But we aren't in any different shape from anyone else" around the state or country. "Water and sewer rates will start going up because infrastructure is failing" in many places, he predicted.

Street maintenance is another place where the town is struggling to stay within budget this year.

The town did a street inventory last year, walking and measuring street conditions and the amount of traffic to prioritize maintenance needs for 2014 and years into the future, Saba said.

Crack and sand sealing are in progress. "We're finding out stuff as we are crack sealing, there are streets that we rated in January and they've cracked a lot more than we thought they did," he said.

"We put a lot of work into this (the 2013 inventory). We walked and measured all these roads. We're running over (budget) on crack sealing because some of the streets are in way worse shape than we thought," Saba said.

Trustees approved another $20,000 for that last week, because of the larger than expected need. That's on top of the $194,000 approved earlier for crack and sand sealing.

The other part of this year's road work is resurfacing. Last month trustees approved a base bid on $863,615 plus an add-alternate of $89,096 from Old Castle (Four Corners Materials).

Saba alluded to plans to try again in November to get voter approval to raise town sales tax from 2 percent up to 3 percent. In the April town election, voters rejected the proposal by nine votes - 66 for and 75 against. The additional sales tax would be used for street-related projects.

Saba's other item was storm water drainage.

"We mapped the entire storm water system last year with GIS and information about everyone's driveway culverts, all the detention ponds, the size of drainage ditches," he said. "The engineer has all that, and we may have a first draft (master plan) next week, so we'll know how much we need to spend on this and that because it doesn't meet state standards. The state could come down on us."

Again he alluded to the pending sales tax vote.

La May said, "When we get a storm water management plan, there will be projects that come out of that, that we'll have to fund. Grants require a (local) match. I'm waiting to see how that affects town finances along with the street backlog. That's why we need the sales tax."

Saba said the top priority drainage problem is in Dove Ranch, and the fix will cost around $300,000. All the storm runoff is going into the Schroeder Ditch, he said.

The town has a brochure listing the revenue and cost projections for the next several years for street maintenance to document why the town is seeking a sales tax increase.

It says, "According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6 to $10 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly."