Monticello considering water study
Jul 18, 2018 | 2090 views | 0 0 comments | 177 177 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Rhett Sifford . Severe drought conditions and concerns over providing more water to the area once again dominated the July 10 meeting of the Monticello City Council.

Chad Sonderegger and Kedric Curtis, representing Jones and DeMille Engineering, were first up in the discussion.  They are working with Councilman and City Wastewater Operator George Rice to develop a plan to bring more water to Monticello.

Jones and DeMille submitted a Water Resources Evaluation proposal to the city, which Sonderegger and Curtis presented at the meeting.

They recommend that Monticello evaluate all potentially available water resources and create a feasibility plan identifying which resources can be acquired, expanded, or improved to provide the city with additional water.

Curtis said the company is conducting a Spring Creek Water Rights Study and plans to expand the scope of the study to include potential water resources in the North Creek - Montezuma Creek Watershed.

Jones and DeMille propose to identify improvements to infrastructure and collection if additional water is acquired.  They will also look into the existing Loyds Lake agreement and identify areas for improvement and solutions to better manage the reservoir.

The study will cover Monticello water sources, rights, and system upstream of the water treatment plant.  Any planning or design below the water treatment plant is outside the scope of the study.  They propose to complete the project within four months.

Jones and DeMille proposes to increase the budget of the Spring Creek Study from $39,000 to $65,000 and complete the project as a single evaluation.

Sonderegger and Curtis detailed several options that could be used to help the city fund the project, including loans, loan matches, grants, and emergency drought funds.

A grant from the Community Impact Board might cover the entire cost of the study. 

Monticello City Manager Doug Wright responded to the water evaluation proposal, saying that former Mayor Jack Young had been involved in a water study a number of years ago.

Wright encouraged Jones and DeMille to “not reinvent the wheel,” but try to “resurrect” some of the old work that has already been done.

Public Works Director Nathan Langston said he could help locate the old water study information. He added that even if water rights are available, it doesn’t mean that actual water will be.

Councilman Rice added that if the study produces any good water rights, there’s no reason the city shouldn’t look for funding opportunities for recommended projects, possibly including a new holding pond.

He wondered if many plans made in the past weren’t completed when the emergency drought conditions and “panic mode” subsided.

Mayor Tim Young pointed out that much has been done to improve the city water situation in the last decade, including the collection system on the mountain, secondary system, and wells.

Young said the city invested millions of dollars in wells that didn’t produce.

Later, Langston provided a water update.  He reported that the city water intake is a meager 21 percent of average, emergency drought water rates adopted in June have helped reduce water use.

Current culinary use is 65 percent of average, with secondary water use at 78 percent.  The council is encouraged that Monticello residents and businesses are making a legitimate effort to reduce water use.

Langston is working to incorporate drought emergency procedures into the city water conservation plan, which will be updated in 2019.  He said emergency procedures aren’t triggered only by the amount of water stored in Loyds Lake, but also the level of precipitation, soil moisture, and forecasts.  

Langston said that a couple years ago Loyds Lake held less than 1,000 acre feet of water. Under the current proposal, this would trigger a Stage Three action level, prompting severe restrictions on secondary water use.

Langston said the lake is actually in pretty good shape this year, despite a lack of snow runoff.  It is 34 percent full at 1,250 acre feet.

Rice expressed concern that city employees are supposed to enforce water restrictions during certain times of the day when some residents believe they have rights to water.

He also reported that residents are circumventing security the city has placed on water at Circle Park and the Industrial Park and they are taking water without paying for it.

He asked whether the city should turn a blind eye to the problem or crack down on it.  Langston reported that the city plans to install a coin machine on the water at Circle Park.

In one final matter of business related to drought conditions and water shortage, the council voted unanimously to ban personal fireworks.  The temporary ban is in effect until it is lifted by a vote of the council.

Due to rainfall Monticello received from July 7 to 14, it’s looking a little more positive for the official Pioneer Day fireworks.  But according to Wright, the city needs one or two more storms to make it an official “go.”  He said it will be a last-minute decision. 

The council addressed another serious issue – a proposed 47 percent fee increase at the San Juan County Landfill.  In a June 22 letter to county governing entities, landfill manager Randy Rarick explained that the fee increase results from an in-depth business review performed by the landfill and is necessary due to “obligations at the Federal, State, and local levels.”

The council will submit a letter to the County Commission regarding landfill prices. The letter states that the proposed fee increase “will trigger rate increases to San Juan County residents… that will be difficult to bear and may cause additional unintended consequences.”

It adds that the fee increase will likely cause the closure of the Monticello landfill and transfer station, which will result in increased illegal dumping and trash burning by residents.

The City of Blanding submitted a similar letter.  Wright said La Sal and Bluff also have transfer stations that will be affected by the fee increase.

Wright expressed concern that the landfill is already a significant expense in the Monticello city budget.  He said the proposed fee increase is dramatic and a serious concern, but added that it’s important to keep the landfill open.  He said it would be to the city’s advantage to find a way to minimize the cost increase.

Wright said he hopes the county can revisit their study and “come up with a price that’s a little more reasonable or cover a little more of the overage themselves.”

A public hearing is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. on August 7 at the Hideout Community Center, giving residents an opportunity to share comments and concerns with the San Juan County Commissioners.  The landfill fee increase will go into effect on September 1.

Representing the San Juan Chamber of Commerce, Bill Boyle offered the only public comment of the evening, saying that the Chamber is eager to promote business growth in the community.  He expressed that what a community needs in order encourage visitation is a place to stay, a place to eat, and something to do.

Carson Wells presented his Eagle Scout project to the council.  He plans to place a steel bench with a plaque memorializing SSG Aaron Butler in Veterans Memorial Park.  The bench will be bolted to cement blocks in the ground and will face the existing Veterans Memorial.

Wells will have a booth during Pioneer Day events for donations to the project.  He also plans to approach local businesses.

Mayor Young said he thinks it’s a great idea, and encouraged Wells to work with the Parks and Beautification Committee for an appropriate placement of the bench.
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