Council approves new Utilities wastewater agreement

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Colorado Springs' wastewater treatment facility is at 703 E. Las Vegas St.

We believe it is the right contract for this community. — City Administrator Denise Howell

By William J. Dagendesh

At its Feb. 7 meeting, Manitou Springs City Council voted unanimously to approve the new wastewater agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities.

The current service agreement, which expires Feb. 18, 2023, is now extended by 25 years. According to City Administrator Denise Howell, Springs Utilities has provided wastewater treatment services at the treatment facility on Las Vegas Street since the early 1970s.

According to Howell, the agreement is reviewed annually to ensure industrial pre-treatment regulations are being followed. The agreement is a special contract for service — outside city limits — as provided in Utilities’ tariffs. These tariffs and regulations apply to Manitou Springs except as otherwise provided in the agreement.

In the agreement, Utilities accepted and treated, through its wastewater treatment system, wastewater that originates from outside Manitou Springs’ service area from Manitou Springs customers.

“I think most of you know we do not do our own waste water treatment, it is done by [Utilities]. I do not see that’s something we will do anytime in the near future, as a city, to treat our own wastewater,” Howell said. “When this [issue] came to me, I brought [city attorney] Jeff Parker and Ann Nichols [formerly with Utilities] in. We met with Utilities numerous times and went through this contract.”

In a memorandum, Howell said the proposed items under the new agreement include:

  • WasteWater Regional System Availability Fee — The WWRSAF is assessed, by contract, for each new connection to Utilities’ wastewater collection system outside the corporate limits of Colorado Springs in areas where Utilities’ wastewater collection system is available to serve, among others, organized sewer districts and municipal corporations.
  • Maximum average flow capacity is 0.39 million gallons per day. This is within the current MAF of between 0.30 and 0.59 million gallons per day in the rate structure for the WWRSAF. MAF is defined as a calculation based on a 90-day rolling average of discharge as measured at the points of connection.
  • Water Quality Impact Fee — Utilities reserves the right to charge a pro rata share of Utilities’ cost for water quality monitoring and studies, and Fountain Creek watershed improvements. The pro rata share will be based on Manitou’s yearly wastewater flows as a percentage of Utilities’ combined yearly wastewater treatment flows. This is an estimated cost of $2,000 to $3,000 annually.

“We believe it is the right contract for this community. It’s not about tariffs. It’s about how they treat our water and what they expect from us. We went with a 25-year agreement with an exit clause because I don’t see us doing our own wastewater,” Howell said.

Also, Council heard the first reading of Ordinance No. 0123. This repeals/re-enacts Section 13.08.050 of the Manitou Springs Code of Ordinances concerning connection charge, section 13.20.010 charges established and repeals/re-enacts Section 13.06.010 concerning sewage system required for all properties.

Finance Director Rebecca Davis said the code change clarifies the current code. It doesn’t change the current code’s intent, but helps ensure that confusion that has occurred in the past doesn’t occur in the future.

Davis noted that the Water/Sewer Municipal Code doesn’t allow tap fees to be waived. However, rather than clearly stating this, it doesn’t provide exceptions when tap fees could be waived. The verbiage “this charge cannot be waived” has been added to Section 13.08.050; “and cannot be waived” has been added to Section 13.20.010 to indicate tap fees can’t be waived.

Staff discovered conflicting code in the Sewer Municipal Code concerning connecting to the sewer system, according to Davis.

Section 13.04.020 “Connection required” concerning connecting property to city collection lines for property toilet facilities, states “under unusual circumstances such as unique topographical characteristics, the city administrator or public services director, with health department approval, may waive this connection requirement.”

Meanwhile, Section 13.06.010 “sewage system required for all property” states that “new septic tanks or other individual sewage disposal systems are prohibited” without referencing the exception listed in Section 13.04.020. The Ordinance 0123 adds this verbiage to Section 13.04.020 and references Section 13.04.020 as the source of this exception.

“The way the code is right now, there is no exception to tap fees. Now the code is going to state it in the sections that reference tap fee. This ordinance had language from Section 13.04.020 of the code to Section 13.06.010 regarding the sewer system and septic tanks and other individual sewage disposal systems. This way it makes it clear and should remove this confusion in the future,” Davis said.

Councilor Julie Wolfe voiced concern over topography and questioned whether new septic tanks should be allowed in Manitou Springs.

“I don’t want septic tanks in Manitou, certainly not more than we already have. It gets icky in your ground water. It’s disgusting,” Wolfe said.

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Fortuin agreed, saying, “I am not a fan of septics, but am concerned about septic systems and our watersheds.”

Councilor John Shada added, “I remind everybody that in recent history we had significant water quality problems with sewer issues going on. … I think we need to keep in mind that in our kind of rocky soil it is difficult to contain this material.”

Howell and Parker agreed to research the topic further before council can move forward.

Council also voted unanimously to approve Resolution 0623, which expresses the city’s intent to be reimbursed for the purchase of two police vehicles. Davis said the resolution is designed to have council approve the purchase of two police vehicles before the 2023 lease purchase is in place.

The purchase includes half of a Type 3 fire pumper truck, two police cars, four police radios and a Polaris for neighborhood service from the Capital Improvement Fund.

This year, the 2023 lease purchase was delayed due to staff seeking a current quote for the fire pumper truck. That requires “spec’ing out” the various components and sending out a request for bids. The goal is to have the lease purchase agreement ready for approval by ordinance in March.

To acquire vehicles in a timely manner, the Manitou Springs Police Department must notify the vehicle dealership more than half a year in advance of their interest in purchasing vehicles in the next year. This doesn’t create any obligation to buy, but ensures the city can acquire vehicles early in the next year.

The vehicle dealership notified the city that the police vehicles are in stock and must be purchased quickly or they will be sold to other government entities.

“Normally, the lease purchase would have been in the approval process by mid-February,” Davis said. “We are at least a month out from funding being available from the lease purchase agreement. If the purchase is not made now, a new order must be placed and the vehicles will arrive either in late 2023 or early 2024.”

Additionally, council unanimously appointed Michael Quintana and Amy Mogck as regular members of the Housing Advisory Board.

Quintana attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a bachelor of science in computer science. As a cadet company commander, he was responsible for 122 other cadets and attended summer internships with the National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and U.S. Army Program Executive Office.

“When I joined the Army, I chose Fort Carson as my first duty station and have lived in this area ever since. While in the Army, I served in a number of different program management and logistics operations roles and learned to research issues and problem-solve with seniors, subordinates and peers alike,” Quintana said.

“Since transitioning out of the Army, I have been searching for an opportunity to serve my community in another way. I believe being appointed to the Manitou Springs Housing Advisory Board is a perfect way for me to serve my neighbors in a more direct manner.”

Mogck served as a Greater Resilience Information Toolkit (GRIT) support coach certified by the National Institute for Human Resilience and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. GRIT helps people tap into their personal strength and resilience, and equips them with the tools to overcome challenges.

Mogck holds a bachelor of arts in mass communications/English from Washington State University, is a master of social work graduate student at Western New Mexico University and is a certified Conscious Parenting coach.

“I believe housing is a human right and I know we have some challenges in our community, but I am willing to face those challenges,” Mogck said.

Fortuin said she looks forward to having a fellow veteran serve on the board, as housing is an issue with veterans.

“Congratulations, and may your hard work be rewarding,” Mayor John Graham said.

Council is scheduled for a strategic planning/goals special work session starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, in City Hall, 606 Manitou Ave. The public is welcome to observe, but cannot comment.

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