Mt. Pleasant water woes bubble up
Aspen Village repair bid is more
than $100K over budget
By Doug Lowe
MT. PLEASANT— City leaders once again found themselves pondering a variety of water-related problems at last week’s meeting.
Tuesday evening’s difficulties began when bids were opened for implementing water system improvements for Aspen Village.
Grant money had already been approved for solving the biggest water-related problems in the Aspen Village mobile home park on Power Plant Road.
With all the necessary engineering design completed, bids had been solicited from contractors wanting to install a new water main, a new fire hydrant, and new individual supply lines, with separate meters, running to each of the mobile homes in the park.
Upon opening the bids, it was discovered that even the low bid, of $520,000, greatly exceeded the $375,000 in projected grant funding. That disappointing discovery left the three city officials in attendance—Michael Olsen, the mayor; Monte Bona, the head of community development and renewal; and, Dave Oxman, finance director—figuratively scratching their heads while two representatives from Sunrise Engineering did the same.
Eventually, Bona suggested, “It looks like we need to either scale back the project or get the granter to give us more money, which I doubt they will do.” After that, the five men began brain storming ways to obtain additional funding or scale back the project’s scope.
By the meeting’s end, no final decision had been made, and city officials agreed upon further research.
In the city council meeting that followed, there was a discussion on Sunrise Engineering’s work on improving the town’s culinary water supply; and the work of J-U-B Engineers toward increasing the yield of irrigation water from the neighboring canyons.
A little more than three years earlier, the city council gave Sunrise Engineering the go ahead to work towards a new pipeline carrying contaminated Sneak Springs water to a new treatment plant, and also towards drilling one or two new wells to help meet drought and future growth needs.
Council’s decision to proceed with the culinary water plan proposed by Sunrise Engineering was reach in May of 2017, when project engineer, Robert Worley, present five options for addressing culinary water needs that had already outstripped the available supply.
Unfortunately, earlier efforts made a few years earlier, to capture more water from Sneak Springs had the opposite effect: resulting in the loss of some 300 gallons per minute due to increased contamination by surface water.
According to Mayor Olsen, “That all happened before my time, so I know little about it. But, I do know we don’t have enough year-around culinary water for a city our size—let alone future growth.”
Currently, the city uses three non-well sources for its water: Barton Spring, Sneak Springs and Coal Fork Stream. At present, Mt. Pleasant also owns 2,028 acre feet of water, but uses only a little more than 1,000 acre feet. Still, the city is able to provide only some 1,220 gallons per minute (gpm) of culinary water, even though state standards call for the provision of some 1,598 gpm. So, the city has been short more than 300 gpm for a while now.
The irrigation water being addressed by J-U-B Engineers dates back even further than Mt. Pleasant’s more recent loss of culinary water from Sneak Springs. Back in the 1950s or ’60s a retention pond, also referred to as a debris basin, was constructed in Pleasant Creek Canyon. Since then, the possibility of enlarging that pond or basin has grown increasingly attractive to the Pleasant Creek Irrigation Company.
In recent years, the company has become focused on the possibility of obtaining 70-percent funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). But, since only a unit of government can receive such funds, the company approached the city about getting involved.
From the city’s point of view, the ability to capture and store more irrigation water in both Pleasant Creek Canyon and Twin Creek Canyon had enough appeal to win city council approval.
So, council commissioned J-U-B Engineers to study the feasibility of new and/or expanded retention ponds in the canyons used respectively by the Pleasant Creek and Twin Creek irrigation companies. With the plans developed by J-U-B now in the environment study phase, the possibility of NRCS approval looms on the horizon.
But, with his professional experience in such matters, councilman Justin Atkinson warned, “The bigger the project, the longer it can take to complete the environmental study phase. And, we’re talking about a pretty big project involving two canyons, two irrigation companies, a large area and lots of users.”
Colter Adams, the city’s water master, then brought to the council’s attention the reoccurring problem of water and revenue being lost because the majority of some 200 home owners, outside the city limits up in the Aspen Hill development, continue to take city water with only a few bothering to pay for it.
When questioned by those on the council, Adams estimated that “only around half a dozen a paying anything for water,” and he recounted stories of water being taken from spigots in all kinds of public places—even some individuals brazenly opening fire hydrants to fill much large water tanks mounted on trailers or in truck beds.
Alarmed by the information, council voted to address the problem in three ways: The calculation of water fees to be paid by non-residents users was simplified with the establishment of a new rate or charge of three cents per gallon; city police would be asked to apprehend those found opening fire hydrants to steal water; and, Colter was told to construct a new “filling station” to serve as the only place where non-residents would legally obtain city water, with a meter determining how much they took, so the necessary fee could be computed and paid.
Just days after the meeting, Mt. Pleasant’s website and Facebook page asked residents to conserve all possible culinary water and prohibit the watering of lawns and gardens—because a pump feeding the city’s water culinary water supply had stopped working.
The problem was traced to an electrical motor simply burning out. So, that motor was quickly replaced and the supply of culinary