Grand Lake’s water superintendent of 28 years calls it a career
December 11, 2007
After looking after the town of Grand Lake’s most valuable resource ” water ” for 28 years, Bill Hagemann is, well, going with the flow.
The water superintendent’s resignation marks the end of an era, taking effect at the start of the new year.
He is a gentle giant, a matter-of-fact kind of man. He carries the weight of decades of responsibility in his eyes.
“The town has never been in violation of any state or federal (water) regulation,” he said. “It’s a record I’m proud of because it’s always been my main goal: to produce a product that is safe to consume, in order for people to survive,” he said.
In an isolated office near Tonahutu Creek, Hagemann spent countless hours writing reports, penning letters to water consumers and keeping himself abreast of the latest in state and federal water regulations.
The day-to-day, behind-the-scenes duties garnered little glory for the water works employee.
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Silence, actually, was satisfying; it meant he was doing his job.
“As long as water comes out of that faucet, and dirty water doesn’t, there aren’t going to be complaints,” he said.
“I don’t work for the town mayor, or the town board … yes, they’re my bosses, but I work for the public. They’re the ones who pay the bills.”
A licensed water operator for a municipality must be on-call 24/7/365 by law. Multiply that by nearly 30 years, it adds up to “a lot of responsibility,” Hagemann said.
When Hagemann was first hired, Bud Wilson was the supervisor of the Granby Sanitation District, at a time when he was the only licensed operator in the area.
When Bud retired, Gary Allison took his place. He ran the Three Lakes Sanitation District; and Hagemann ran the town water system.
John Petty was mayor, and the town hall was located in what is now a church, until the town moved into the old library building across from the Grand Lake Inn.
It was a time when “you spent a lot of hours and never complained. There was no overtime, you just did your job and you went on,” Hagemann said.
Having moved from Federal Heights, where he worked in public works and water, Hagemann adjusted quickly to the quiet winters in Grand Lake.
The town relied on its water plant for treated water; then eventually, it implemented its first well at the corner of Pitkin and Park, north of the old library.
The town used the well along with the plant until the late 1990s, at which time Hagemann and gang implemented a second well near St. Anne’s Church. The town then opted to rely on well water for its citizens and dismantled the plant.
Wells utilize natural water filtration through the ground, a process duplicated in water plants.
“There were a lot more rules and regulations to operate that plant versus wells,” Hagemann said. “Well systems are more cost-effective, with a lot less headaches.”
To this day, Grand Lake town water comes from natural Grand Lake, and in terms of plenitude, the town is fortunate, Hagemann said.
With the help of Dave Johnson, who soon will be Hagemann’s predecessor, the system is now converted to computer operation.
Maintaining and making changes to the Grand Lake system have been constant throughout Hagemann’s career.
He highlighted two projects in particular that stand out.
One was making pipeline upgrades to three blocks of Grand Avenue to provide better fire protection to the town’s citizens and businesses.
The other was bringing town water to the Grand Lake Lodge, which benefited the residents of Woodpecker Hill, as well as the Elk Creek Campground.
“With the projects we’ve done, we’ve done a lot to improve the system,” he said.
Interestingly, water consumption is less today than it was in earlier years of his career, primarily due to summer residents who ran water at their cabins through the winter to keep pipes from freezing.
The practice may still go on in a few places today, Hagemann said, but residents must be authorized to do so and charged accordingly. Meters and 1-gallon flow restriction has since limited excess water waste.
Hagemann considers himself a conservationist “like anybody else” when it comes to water. At he and his wife Glenna’s home in the Columbine Lake community outside Grand Lake, he has never planted grass, noting that irrigation in the town parks is the biggest water user in town.
Although he’s leaving his town post, Hagemann said he’s not quite ready to turn his life completely over to traveling and fishing ” although he hopes to do more of both.
His next step is to start a consulting business.
“I want to help a lot of the small water systems that are around here. I think it’s needed,” he said. “Many could use a licensed operator to help them out.”
As far as the town, “I wasn’t planning on staying forever,” he said, adding that it’s time to pass on the torch.
“I’ve had a good job here. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort working on that system … It’s kind of sad to walk away.”
-Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.