February 25, 2009

Work on water pipeline to start this summer
By Nicole Queen

From the building of a water pipeline from Conifer to Bailey to developments in Jeffco government, Conifer residents were updated on a variety of issues at a town hall meeting Feb. 25.

Conifer-to-Bailey pipeline

Conifer Water LLC is gearing up to build a 13.3-mile pipeline from the old Conifer Safeway center to Bailey along U.S. 285.

“We will begin construction this summer,” said John McMichael, managing partner with Conifer Water LLC. “… We hope to be finished before the snow flies.”

Two pipelines will be built — one to carry water from the South Platte River to customers and another to transport wastewater to the Bailey Waste Water Treatment Plant.

At the town hall meeting, McMichael told attendees that the pipeline would dramatically reduce the pressure on the area’s groundwater wells.

“When the state and Jefferson County first estimated the well policy in the 1950s,” he said, “they estimated 4,000 to 6,000 wells to be built by the year 2000. Instead, we have 28,000 wells, so there’s a lot more pressure on groundwater than I think anyone ever anticipated.”

The water will be available to water and sanitation districts for purchase. Current districts considering purchases include Kings Valley, Will-O-Wisp, Conifer Metropolitan District and the Elk Creek development owned by Ron Lewis, which has not yet formed a district.

McMichael said the pipeline would not require residents to pay additional taxes. The $24 million project will include the building of a new water treatment plant, a potable-water storage tank, and a new wastewater treatment plant.

Funding will come from issuing a taxable corporate bond, McMichael said. He added that Conifer Water is also seeking federal stimulus funds but won’t find out for a few weeks if they are a possibility.

McMichael received a state permit in December 2007 to build the pipeline.

County-level developments

Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCasky told town hall attendees the jail is full and two judges at the courthouse don’t have assigned courtrooms because there’s no room.

“Moral of the story is, we’re full,” he said. “We need more space, with 540,000-plus people in the county.”

McCasky said the county has convened a citizen review panel to review capital construction needs, facility needs and the possible construction of a mountain south sheriff’s station.

Two Conifer residents, Joe Dicks and Jacque Scott, have been chosen to serve on the committee.

The growth of the county has not only affected residents, but also animals.

“We’re in headway to construct a new animal center in the county,” McCasky said. “Our facility is outdated and too small.”

The center is being built at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and will include a large shelter, replacing the Table Mountain Animal Center in Golden.

Also at the meeting, County Administrator Jim Moore told of additions to the county website, http://www.jeffco.us/transparentgov/interest.htm, such as publishing the county’s check register, tax information, and blogs by elected officials.

Moore said the county wants citizen input on the site, and residents can take a survey to make their preferences known.

“We think that open, transparent government is the way to do business,” Moore said. “We literally want to hear from a more diverse group of people who will question us on how we spend your money.

“We want you to challenge us on how we do things … we want more people to question us and ask us things and open up a two-way communication.”

State legislation

Legislation at the statehouse could have an affect on mountain communities, state Sen. Mike Kopp and Rep. Cheri Gerou told the town hall.

“A lot of the bills we’ve been working on involve (fire) volunteer recruitment, retention and mitigation,” Kopp said.

The volunteer firefighter incentive bill, if passed, will earn volunteers three bonus credits for every nine credits taken at a community college.

“We want to make it easier to be a volunteer firefighter here in Colorado,” Kopp said. “You know, 60 percent of the state’s firefighting force are volunteers. A lot of them are professional in ability, but it just so happens they’re unpaid.”

Kopp said that if the state tried to pay all of its volunteer firefighters, the tab would be between $250 million and $500 million a year.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “So I think we really need to do things we can to recruit volunteer firefighters and give fire departments up here in the mountains the tools they need to recruit them and keep them on staff.”

Another bill creates incentives for businesses aiming to eliminate the fuel load in forests. It would provide entrepreneurs a revolving loan fund for equipment and an ombudsman to help them start removing beetle-kill trees.

“The idea is that we ought to be able to use these timber products in a commercially viable way,” Kopp said. “And in doing so, we also create a benefit for the public who live around these areas that need to be mitigated in the first place.”

Another bill would provide mitigation grants for high-risk communities. The bill was the result of a meeting at Elk Creek’s fire station.

“Everyone said that we have one overriding need,” Kopp said. “We need to get the wood out of the forests.”

The bill, if passed, would set up a matching grant program from the State Forest Service that would go to communities like Conifer to create wildfire protection plans.

The communities would put in 40 percent, and the state would match 60 percent.

According to Kopp, the bill would require the State Forest Service to create a prioritized list of communities in need of mitigation. He said Conifer would more than likely be high on the list.

Contact Nicole at nicole@evergreenco.com


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