After an hour’s discussion about Fort Lupton’s mandatory wastewater improvements Feb. 18, one thing was quite clear.
“We have to spend a lot of money,” Mayor Zo Stieber said. “Unfortunately, it has to come from citizens. I don’t like it.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is forcing several cities, including Fort Lupton, to clean up the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and chlorophyll in surface water. More than 60 cities filed an appeal, citing the more than $1.5 billion combined cost of the repairs. CDPHE turned it down.
The deadline to fulfill the order is January 2023. The city filed an appeal for an 18-month extension before putting the guidelines into place. As of late last week, there had been no response.
City Administrator Chris Cross outlined three scenarios for council to consider. The costs range from $38 million (to keep and upgrade the existing plant) to $44 million to sign on with Metro Wastewater District to $55 million to sign on with the St. Vrain Wastewater District.
Cross outlined three potential loan arrangements as well. Two of those arrangements are through the state. One is from a group called Stiefel Finance. Yearly payments would be from $1.8 million to $1.9 million. Total interest payments on the low end are $16 million and $32.5 million on the high end.
At present, the city charges about $24 for water bills. The potential add-ons to residential water bills were $33.50 on the low side and more than $50 on the high side.If the city opts for either the Metro district or St. Vrain’s, there will be court costs to undo existing cases. Cross said the range for those was between $250,000 and $350,000, depending on the district.
Cross also outlined a series of factors council can’t depend on in making a decision. Those included future residential construction, construction challenges to connect the existing plant to either the Metro district or the St. Vrain district (the connection includes 10 miles of pipeline) and unforeseen challenges at the city’s plant.
“We can’t bank on how many houses are going to be built?” asked Stieber.
“That’s right,” Cross said.
Councilman Tommy Holton didn’t think council was ready to make a choice. But he and Stieber had a preference.
“We should either redo our plant or go to Metro,” said Holton. “I’m not comfortable losing local control. We’re going to have to lobby like crazy.”
Councilman David Crespin agreed to take the St. Vrain district out of the equation. Both he and Holton agreed council needed much more information before making a final decision.
Council scheduled a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18, at the recreation center, 203 S. Harrison Ave.