Three Lakes Water and San promises improved communication
On Friday night, the Board of the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District and the Grand County Commissioners hosted a public meeting. We had invited those District residents whose homes are still on septic systems, located in areas not reached by the Three Lakes in-ground main lines.
It did not take us long to fully appreciate the mood of the audience, and despite the contentious nature of the meeting we were able to leave with some constructive ideas which I would like to summarize.
When the District was first created and assessments began, the full District budget was directed at building infrastructure for the “unconnected” residents. Of course, at that time, 100 percent of the residents were unconnected since the District was just beginning. That is, 100 percent of the budget went to constructing infrastructure for those unconnected homes and businesses which could be economically connected. Over the last two decades Three Lakes has been able to connect roughly 3,000 homes and businesses, leaving just over 450 homes unconnected. (We have about 87 perceent of the homes and businesses connected, with 13 percent still
The major constructive ideas brought forth by the audience focused on improved communication and education. We clearly have many District members who have been carefully and skillfully monitoring and controlling their own systems successfully for decades, and/or who reside in areas that provide little risk of groundwater contamination. A second subset understands the basic operation of their systems, but would like periodic communication meetings to improve their ability to avoid problems with their systems in the future. It is apparent from the information that we have gathered that a third group exists that has taken their systems for granted or are unfamiliar with proper preventive maintenance.
I believe that the Three Lakes Board and staff can provide some assistance to each of these groups. It is clear that the residents in the first group have important skills that can be shared through communication. We can also arrange regular meetings or prepare regular fliers to help those in the second and third groups. We may even be able to help reduce costs to all groups in several creative ways.
For example, the costs associated with regular pumping of septic systems are escalating rapidly due to increased transportation costs and increased regulation of those sites that accept septic waste. Pumped waste is currently being transported outside of Grand County for disposal, adding to the transportation costs. In my view the District should examine the feasibility of modifying our existing wastewater facilities to determine whether we could allow centralized septic waste dumping at our wastewater treatment plant. There may be technical reasons that limit the practicality of that suggestion, but we should examine the possibility. If practical, perhaps the District could find a way to subsidize a regular pumping and inspection program for District residents. That would help achieve our shared goal of assuring safe waste water treatment through these individual sewage disposal systems while providing some direct assistance from the District to this segment of the District’s constituents.
There may be more creative ideas that were unexpressed given the intensity of the meeting. Only improved communication can redirect that intensity toward problem solving, and I have a final suggestion to offer that the Board will pursue. Four of our five existing Board members occupy residences that are connected to District mains.
Our fifth and newest Board member resides in the District but like those invited to the meeting has a home on septic, not on the main. I would like to have the Board appoint one of our Board members to convene a regular standing committee, made up of willing volunteers from the individual sewage disposal system group. That committee can carefully examine the needs and help to determine how to assist that segment of our District. If you find this idea constructive and wish to volunteer for this committee, please contact Sally Blea at the District office (970-627-3544).
While Three Lakes staff attempted to contact all homeowners within the District that use septic systems, some were evidently not notified of last Friday’s meeting. If you similarly contact the District office we will add you to future communications.
Finally I would like to thank the attendees for their comments and suggestions, and promise you that we have heard your concerns and complaints and will be assessing how the District can be of assistance, after further input from the affected homeowners.
K. John Stahl
Three Lake Water and Sanitation District
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