In the News!

Board of Directors : Agendas: Minutes: In The News!

2016
News from the Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District

May

New online service - Customers now have the convenience of online bill payment

CRESTONE, COLORADO, JUNE 2016 - The Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District has teamed up with Xpress Bill Pay to offer residents the ability to pay their bills online. This new service is in response to customer requests for faster and more convenient bill payment options.

The new service will give residents the ability to view, track, and pay their water/sanitation bills through the secure Xpress Bill Pay Web Site. Various payment options are available including credit and debit cards and electronic funds transfer. Customers can also setup automatic monthly payments and view up to a full year’s history of their accounts.

When you’re ready to pay your bill, select a payment type. Then enter the information and you’re done! It’s that easy, and it only takes you a few minutes each month. All you need is an Internet connection through a Web browser and an e-mail address. Residents can learn more about Xpress Bill Pay and sign up for this new service by visiting www.bacawater.com.

And remember, it’s free to sign up and free to use. Sign up today!

Welcome new Board of Directors

The Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors is pleased to announce the election of two new Board members. We warmly welcome these new Board members Lynn Drake and Matthew Ghourdjian. Lynn and Matthew will both serve 4 year terms. Board President, Cindy Reinhardt, was re-elected and will serve another 4 year term.

At this time we would also like to recognize the efforts of our outgoing members, Kyle Grote and Judy DeLuca. We are thankful for their time and service through the years as members of the District Board of Directors.

Meet your new Board members
Lynn Drake moved to Crestone with my husband 22 years ago. We designed and built our own home in the Baca and I began learning a new career as a ceramic artist. I ran a successful art studio and gallery in downtown Crestone for 5 years, working to share the joys of ceramics with the community. At that time I worked with the Charter School in their mentorship program, I taught home school kids, had an after school program for teens and a membership program for adults.  I now have a new studio at my home and continue to create art that is included in many international collections.

Previously, we lived in Santa Fe for 18 years and ran a successful high end tailoring business. I have been self-employed for most of my life and enjoy the challenges of creating new directions. Born and raised as a child of a diplomat, new places and people were an exciting part of my life and still are.
Joining the water board is important to me. Water is our most important resource for life. With the dwindling supply of good clean water in the world, I hope to continue working for our community for a good safe, clean, and most importantly, an affordable water source.

Matthew Ghourdjian is an information technology executive with a 38 year track record of creativity and execution, designing, building, implementing and operating information technology solutions in the telecommunication, healthcare, legal and financial services industries.  

In addition to being a Partner at both Arthur Andersen and KPMG Consulting during his career, Matthew was the founder and CEO of Cogility Software that developed a model driven integrated development environment, CoderCard Inc. that designed and developed network security devices for the military, and several document management companies.  

After retiring in 2012, Matthew now consults on implementing agile software development methodologies, implementation of DevOps and NoOps, selection of software tools and technologies, understanding and implementing cloud strategies, cost optimization, loan servicing, loan origination, internet advertising optimization, peer-to-peer payments services and call center management.  Matthew received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1978, with an emphasis in Computer Science and Management, from Ambassador College in Pasadena California.

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March 2016

What’s Up?  Baca Grande Water & Sanitation District Update
BGWSD Awarded Large Grant for Aspen Wastewater Plant Improvements

By Cindy Reinhardt, President, BGWSD Board of Directors

The Baca Water & Sanitation District (BGWSD) has been awarded a Small Communities Grant in the amount of $426,150 for its Flow Equalization Basin Project at the Aspen Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Implementation of the overall project was initiated with a funding application to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment – Small Communities Water and Wastewater Grant on November 16, 2015.  The grant is one of 32 small community water and wastewater systems awarded grant monies by CDPHE. These grants range in size from $15,000 to $850,000 so the District’s is one of the larger grants awarded.

The project includes the construction of a new headworks (HW) building and a flow equalization basin (FEB) immediately south of the existing WWTP.  The proposed headworks will include a mechanical screen, a grit removal unit, and a by-pass channel with a manual screen.  The proposed equalization basin will have an effective capacity of approximately 20,000 gallons and be constructed with three submersible pumps and yard piping to convey sewage through the existing influent flow meter and into the sequencing batch reactor (SBR) anaerobic tankage.  Construction of the improvements will remove the coarse solids and inert materials from the incoming wastewater and will dampen the effects of peak hourly flows to the WWTP by preventing the SBR from operating in a short cycle setting.

According to Justin DeBon, District Operations Manager, this project is important to the operators because of the mechanical screen and grit removal. Currently there is no way to mechanically remove the trash and debris that makes its way into the system.  The material gets pumped into the treatment plant, and every six months needs to be removed.  This is done by hand by raking and shoveling the trash and debris into our Vactor vacuum truck. “It is a very dirty and hazardous job that will not be missed, and it will free our operations team to undertake other important repair and preventive maintenance projects.”

DeBon cited other benefits of the project. “With so many manholes and mostly dirt roads in the Baca, we get a lot of sand and gravel in our sewer mains. When the sand is pumped into and through the treatment plant it creates extra wear and tear on the pumps and the sand eventually settles at the bottom of the treatment plant basins and lowers the overall capacity of the plant.”

Board President Cindy Reinhardt cited the availability of bond funds to fund a portion of the project and the team effort of District staff in coordination with District Engineer Brad Simons of TZA Water Engineers and District Manager Lisa Johnson of SDMS in the success of this application.  “The knowledge of our operations team about local needs coupled with our consultants’ awareness of various grant programs and their ability to successfully navigate the grant application process is a huge benefit for the District,” she said.  “The District will continue to aggressively seek funding for the many improvements that our water and sanitary sewer systems need.”

According to Engineer Simons, planning, design and permitting of the improvements will occur in 2016.  Bidding and construction will occur in 2017.

In Other District News …

In reviewing last year's accomplishments, the District’s operations team reports that as a result of increased leak detection and leak repair operations, the District:

As the Eagle goes to press, the deadline for filing to run for one of three available Board of Directors positions is passed.  And, as of this writing, four candidates have submitted their applications. Stay tuned to your April Eagle for an update and details on the election process.

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February 2016

Citizen Advisory Committee Tops BGWSD Board Agenda

By Cindy Reinhardt, President BGWSD Board of Directors

The formation of a citizen advisory group topped the Baca Water & Sanitation District board’s agenda for its first meeting of 2016. In proposing the committee, Board President Cindy Reinhardt noted “we need citizens to be informed about the challenges facing the district in light of lower property valuations, slow growth, infrastructure and equipment needs, new regulations, and debt service payments. There are many smart, creative people in our community and together we can meet these challenges.” 

The proposal elicited feedback from the small group of citizens present that the District could do a better job communicating information to customers. Ideas for doing so included more articles here in the Eagle, using the notice box on bills regularly, and creating a blog to post information and provide a place for comments. Director Michael Scully will research the blog idea and local resident Lynn Drake volunteered to work with him and the board on other ideas.

The formal creation of a committee was deferred until after the May election, given that three positions (a majority of the board) are open and the priorities of a new board could be different.  The current board will continue discussion so that the groundwork will be in place to form the advisory group after the election should the board wish to do so.

Speaking of the May election, three director terms end this year: directors Judy Deluca, Kyle Grote and Reinhardt. All are eligible to run for re-election.  The board assured those present that the election will be held right here in the district on May 3, 2016. JoAnn Slivka was appointed as the Designated Election Official at the November, 2015 board meeting. Several community members have already volunteered to serve on election day. More may be needed, so please contact the office (256-4310) to volunteer.

Even better, consider serving on the board. Speaking from personal experience, I have learned much in these last four years and have enjoyed even the toughest challenges and changes that we’ve faced. Terms are four years. Self-nomination forms are available on the district’s website (www.bacawater.com) and at the district office.

The operations staff welcomed two new team members in January, Tad Crawford and Rebecca Potter. Construction of a secondary line crossing North Crestone Creek near the Well 17/18 complex was completed, and procuring a back-up power system is a priority for 2016. The board authorized the lease of a new dump truck (much needed since the current truck has over 1.3 million – yes, million – miles), a trailer to transport other district equipment efficiently to work sites, as well as two new service trucks.

The board also affirmed authorization of moving forward with an online bill payment system to offer customers a better way to pay bills online. Details will be coming in the next couple months as staff completes training and implementation.

In other business, the board received the great news from the district’s water counsel, Marcus Lock, that in December, the Justice Department finally filed a water court application to legitimize the current location of Well 17. This has been a pending issue since the new well was drilled in 2012, and is one of the many details required to be sure that the District is in compliance with Colorado water law. Since the District leases its water rights from the federal government, we had to request that the Justice Department file the water court case on our behalf.   We are glad this case is now proceeding.
The February meeting of the board of directors will be held on Friday, February 19 at 9a.m. at the district office, 57 Baca Grant Way South.

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January 2016

What’s Up?  Baca Grande Water & Sanitation District Update

Cindy Reinhardt – President, BGWSD Board

BGWSD customers and District property owners have been notified that water and sewer rates will increase beginning January 1, 2016 (up $2 each per month/$4 total) as will the mill levy (to a total of 54 mills).  No board, including this one, makes these decisions lightly. We want to explain why we believe this action was necessary and share with you some important accomplishments in 2015.

2015 Accomplishments  When the board adopted the District’s 2015 budget, we did so with a mandate to cut costs without cutting services or increasing exposure to risks.  Staff positions were reorganized, giving greater responsibility to the Administrative and Operations Managers, and the General Manager position was eliminated. As a result, and despite increases in health and workers compensation insurance, payroll expenses were reduced by almost 10 percent.

Professional consulting fees, including, management, legal and accounting, were reduced by over 16 percent.

Through the diligent efforts of the operations team, the District made significant progress finding and repairing leaks and reducing water loss.  As a result, we saved almost 24 million gallons of water and the costs associated with that: raw water, utilities, wear and tear on the system.

A major capital project, funded in part by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Government, was completed to connect Casita Park to the main well complex. The meter replacement project was completed and the District is getting near 100 percent reads each month.

The Challenges Beyond the aging infrastructure, capital needs, equipment needs, and general increases in costs, the biggest challenge this year was that the total assessed valuation of property in the District fell by 19 percent, going from $14,949,422 to $12,073,444. At the 2015 mill levy rate, this meant a loss in revenue of approximately $143,000. 

Staff and consultants worked diligently to create a lean operating budget for the year. Then, as the board reviewed and looked longer term, we saw that the District’s reserves would be out of compliance and, more importantly, inadequate to fund a costly breakdown should one occur. Looking further down the road, the District’s debt service payments will increase a few years out. Rather than kicking the proverbial can down the road for a future board, we decided to take action now to address those concerns.  Thus, the Board made the decision to increase the mill levy and user rates.

The decision raised several questions from residents and property owners, including those below.

Is the increase legal?  Yes.  The 50 mill cap adopted in the 2008 bond election applies only to the District’s General Fund and not to its Debt Service fund.  The wording is complex legalese, but our legal counsel has advised that the increase is consistent with what District voters approved in 2008 as well as Colorado statutes.  We have posted information on the District’s web site (www.bacawater.com) that summarizes responses to questions about the legality of the increase.

Won’t the increases make living here less appealing and hurt property values?  The Board considered this potential downside as well as the impact of increases on residents. Then, when we considered the District’s financial health and looked at the impact of declining fund balances over the next several years, we concluded that the increases are needed now.

Why does the District need a management company?  This board believes that continuing to engage a management company is critical to the District’s capacity to efficiently operate in compliance with complex regulations, to meet statutory requirements and deadlines, obtain grant funding (over $525,000 since 2008), and to prepare and assist the board in understanding detailed, sometimes complicated, financial statements as well as the implications of financial decisions.

We hope that you will bring your concerns and questions to future board meetings.  Our January meeting will be held at 9am on Friday January 15, 2016 at the District office 57 Baca Grant Way South. At that meeting I will be asking the Board to form a citizen task force to look at the critical issues facing the District and how the community can best address them.

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