Granby " Moraine Park water system woes escalate from political issue to health concern
July 15, 2008
Mention the Moraine Park water system to anyone who has been paying attention to politics in Granby for any amount of time and they roll their eyes.
It’s been an issue for “for as long as I can remember,” they say, and no one sees an end in sight.
About 10 years ago a solution was almost reached when Granby offered to annex the neighborhood and take over administration of Moraine Park’s aging water system. In exchange, the town asked to secure owner Paul Geisendorfer’s water rights along with the water system.
Geisendorfer never conveyed the water rights to the town, the deal fell through and the subject of annexation hasn’t come up seriously again.
Moraine Park is an unincorporated neighborhood of 300 residents near Middle Park High School. Though it is not a part of Granby, it is encircled on three sides by the town.
The neighborhood’s water system of 150 service connections is owned by Geisendorfer.
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There are pipes in the system that went into the ground more than 60 years ago.
The water in Moraine Park is supplied through an aquifer, with water stored in two wells and delivered to homes by way of aging pipelines.
As the system ages, leaks are springing up faster than they can be fixed and residents are suffering more regularly from loss of water.
The Moraine Park water system needs to be replaced, but that is an expensive proposition ” especially for Geisendorfer, who already owes the state $365,000 in fines from a judgment in September 2003 for failure to comply with the state’s primary drinking water regulations. Because he has not paid those fines, they have compounded with interest to an amount close to $500,000.
In June, some Moraine Park residents went without water for several days. Paul’s wife, Jean Geisendorfer, blamed the water problem on residents for overuse. But at the time, Todd Conger, who has been maintaining the system in addition to his position as water superintendent for the town of Fraser, said he was sure the loss of water service was from another leak in the antiquated water system.
Two weeks before, another leak in the system had been discovered and fixed. Fixing it, he said at the time, may have triggered another leak.
On July 1, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ordered the Moraine Park water system to “issue a bottled-water advisory for residents, because a service line break resulted in significant pressure loss and complete loss of water to some service areas, which could render the distribution system susceptible to contamination.
“Area residents and visitors were advised to immediately stop using tap water from the Moraine Park water system for drinking and cooking and to begin using bottled water until further notice.”
Moraine Park is still under that bottled water order.
At this point, the Moraine Park water system is less a political issue and more of a health concern.
It’s time that something is done ” sooner than later.
As someone said recently, “Their pipe dream is to keep this water system going for the next generation, but their pipes don’t hold water.”
Moraine Park has several options ” all of which are expensive (replacing the water system will cost between $300,000 and $500,000), but this system has been in a state of disrepair for so long that it has finally reached the point when it cannot be ignored.
Option 1: If Paul Geisendorfer wants to stay in the water business, he needs to replace his aging water system, rather than patching leaks and hoping for the best. It may be cheaper in the short term, but in the end a lot of money can be wasted patching leaks.
Years ago, users of the system decided to “up our own rates” from $20 a month to $40 a month to help Geisendorfer cover the rising costs of electricity and to help him maintain the system. If these rates will not cover the costs of modernizing the Moraine Park water system, they should be raised.
Option 2: Residents of Moraine Park should apply for funding ” either through loans or grants from the state ” to form their own local improvement district to take over the system. Though this is a process that will take time, money and willpower from the residents of Moraine Park, it will preserve the community identity that could be lost in an annexation into Granby and avoid the inevitable rise in taxes and/or rates that would come from annexation.
Option 3: The town of Granby should reconsider annexation of the Moraine Park neighborhood. This is the most logical option from an infrastructure point of view. But it would take the combined political will of both the residents of Moraine Park and the town of Granby.
As part of an annexation, Granby would take over the water system and make the necessary repairs, passing along the cost to the Moraine Park homeowners.
Option 4: In the past, the town of Granby proposed to allow residents to tap into town water and pay out-of-town rates. This solution still begs the question ” who will repair the crumbling water system?
Option 5: Paul Geisendorfer should admit that he can no longer afford to be in the water business and put the Moraine Park water system and water rights on the market. With the purchase price, he could pay what he owes to the state and spend the rest on whatever one does when not dealing with the headache of administering an aging water system.
Option 6: In the worse case and least acceptable scenario, the state could condemn the water system, displacing any resident of Moraine Park who does not have a well.
There is no easy solution to Moraine Park’s water troubles. But, on July 21 at 7 p.m., state officials will host a public meeting in the Granby Road and Bridge shop to discuss possible solutions. Anyone with interest in this issue is encouraged to attend.