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Fountain City Council Approves Water Rate Increase to Fund Treating Contaminated Wells


April 19, 2017

The Fountain City Council unanimously approved second reading of a water rate increase at its April 11 meeting.

There was a lot of discussion on this matter, with Fountain Utilities Customer Service Manager Denise Sulski pointing out that Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell and Water Superintendent Ron Woolsey had spend a lot of time having regular meetings to work with the United States Air Force in addressing PFC contamination in Fountain wells.

Mayor Pro Tem Phil Thomas, who voted against the rate increase on first reading of the related ordinance, explained his original “no” vote had nothing to do with city staff. He expressed his appreciation to Sulski, Mitchell and Carl Christian and said he wanted to reiterate his concerns. Thomas explained it was out of frustration that the city is having to implement this increase to pay to treat contaminated water in Fountain’s wells, which wasn’t caused by the city. He was referring to PFC contamination believed to be the result of years of use of a firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base, and he said he feels it’s the Air Force’s responsibility, not the citizens of Fountain to pay for this.

“I am still apprehensive moving forward as this is not about the utility department, but how this began…. Peterson Air Force Base (PAFB). They have said they will help but the problem I have is putting an increase on utility customers, and I fear what could happen if the Air Force renigs on helping,” Thomas said.

“We are at the bottom of a hill, with Widefield, Security and PAFB above us. We are asking our citizens to finance 3/4 million dollars, not knowing what they are going to do (the other entities.) I want concrete proof that Widefield, Security and the Air Force will do what they say,” he added.

“I can’t help but wonder if Colorado Springs should be part of this too. They also did training at the Air Force base.”

He went on to say he feels like he is doing due diligence as a representative of his constituents by stating his concerns about this rate increase and wants to be sure the others involved follow through.

Mayor Gabe Ortega replied that whatever Security and Widefield Water Districts do (regarding the contamination) won’t really affect Fountain’s water. He said Fountain’s water comes from good sources and he, too, stated his hopes that the Air Force will follow through. He stressed that Utilities Director Mitchell is very involved.

Councilmember Sam Gieck questioned if Fountain shares water tanks with the other utilities and also asked if one of the other utilities doesn’t have enough water this summer, will that affect Fountain.

Mayor Ortega said if Fountain doesn’t have a surplus they are not going to sell Fountain’s good clean water to others. But if Fountain has plenty, they won’t be giving good water away, they will be reimbursed.

El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, who was in attendance, told the council he was advised by Air Force representatives about two months ago that initial reports should be coming out any time now. He explained he had directed the County’s Board of Helath to get the information out to the public once it is available. He stated he wanted to work with Fountain in sharing the information with local citizens when its available.

A resident of Reunion Circle who was in attendance stated part of her issue with the water rate increase was that when homes in her area were built, xeriscaping was not a primary option, and said with many rentals on her street (renters don’t usually pay to water lawns etc.) the increase could have further impacts.

Mayor Ortega added there is also the possibility of water restrictions this summer depending on usage. He said he understands the rate increase hurts homeowners.

When asked if there is a plan to decrease rates if Fountain receives money from the Air Force the mayor said he didn’t see that happening as there were other projects put on hold by utility department because of this issue.

The council also voted to approve a contract for the preliminary and final design and bidding services for a pressure filter facility for PFC removal to Black & Veatch Corporation in the contract amount not to exceed $586,500.

City of Fountain Water Resources Engineer Mike Fink explained the contract is to design, permit and construct a comprehensive treatment system. He said they have asked the Air Force to recoup costs on this project, but they were non-committal.

He explained it is an odd permitting process as its regarding removal of contaminants that are not regulated.

Resident Darrell Couch also spoke addressing the conundrum of how is it Fountain’s problem to dispose of waste that is there (in the wells), but wasn’t created by Fountain.

Utilities Director Mitchell stated at present Fountain cannot use its ground water and has to take steps to remove the contamination in a way to assure it wont return to the environment.

“I appreciate Commissioner Gonzalez commitment to working together,” he stated.

“We have to come up with solution and we need to access our wells. It is our responsibility but we do hope to get relief,” he added.

Fink also reminded the utilities tests for regulated contaminants… but this isn’t one of those. He said it causes a strange situation regarding permitting, as the state has never dealt with this type of situation either.

He added, “we all want to see it come through, but the Air Force cannot make promises right now.”

Mayor Ortega concluded by saying he was glad to see Congressman Doug Lamborn and both of Colorado’s senators expressing support and keeping people on this.

Council voted unanimously 7-0 to approve the measure.

Reunion Circle resident asks about possibility of joining existing maintainenance district forming new one

Also at the meeting, a resident of Reunion Circle, William Campos, spoke to the city about the need for landscaping and street improvements in his block, which is not part of the Heritage Maintenance Improvement? District.

Campos said he would like to see a coordated effort with the city, explaining there are 46 homes on his street, some are rentals. He said the weeds are so bad, every summer there are problems with rodents and snakes. Weed clippings left behind by city crews clump on curbs and in storm drains. He said there is also trash that gets caught in the weeds. He said residents shouldn’t have to use their own equipment to remove them.

He asked if the residents on his street joined the Heritage Maintenance District what would costs be, would they see notable improvements? Or should they form their own district?

Mayor Ortega, Mayor Pro Tem Thomas, Councilmember Sharon Thompson all offered ideas and Deputy City Manager Todd Evans offered to go and meet with Mr. Campos and his neighbors.


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