by Rick Langenberg:
The Florissant area now has a legal water and sanitation district, and with a little help from the state, it could hit the funding jackpot for nearly $1 million in the form of financial support and planning assistance.
Better yet, the district may get out of paying any fines for noncompliance and could receive better service, if they abide by the state’s wishes. However, in the past that regulatory hurdle sometimes has posed big challenges for the small water and sanitation district that serves only approximately 110 active taps for commercial and residential property owners. The main district service area is located around the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 24 and Teller One.
Last week, the county commissioners appointed an official five-person district board, and made one special demand: have an election within six months. The new appointees are Ginger Bruvold, Cathy Valdez, Robert Faux, Barbara Faux and Christopher Penland. Out of this lineup, Bruvold and Valdez are the only former board members. In order to garner a seat on the board, a person had to be a registered Colorado voter and be either a resident of the district for 30 days or an owner of property within the district. The commissioners had eight potential candidates.
The county leaders, though, had to act fast.
According to correspondence the county received last spring, the state Department of Local Affairs threatened to dissolve the district for failing to hold or cancel elections, not providing proper services and violating other provisions of state laws. But to avoid any further interruptions of service, the state requested that the commissioners appoint a new board of directors. In fact, state officials indicated that the commissioners should either appoint a new board or take action to dissolve the district. The state concluded that all current board positions are vacant, based on previous rules that weren’t followed for special districts. “At this point, we are requesting that the Teller County Board of County Commissioners consider making appointments to the district as soon as possible in order to take advantage of potential financial opportunities,” stated Jarrod Biggs, head of government services for the state Division of Local Government
It took the commissioners several tries to generate interest from people in the district to serve on the board. Due to previous problems, the commissioners didn’t want to re-appoint the same board who were running the district in the past. However, they indicated an interest in appointing two former board members, based on conversations held between County Administrator Sheryl Decker and state officials.
The main issue of concern centered around the lack of any district board elections for 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, based on a letter the commissioners received from the Division of Local Government. The division requested immediate action by the commissioners.
With the new round of appointments, the Florissant Water and Sanitation District is officially back in action, according to county officials.“We are at such a critical point,” stated Decker, in outlining the emergency action. The appointment request was put on the July 11 commissioners’ meeting agenda at the 11th hour.
According to Scott Garncarz, a representative of the state Division of Public Health, the Florissant district can receive a considerable amount of state assistance if they play their cards right. “They have opportunities to get some financial assistance,” said Garncarz. He specifically cited a state revolving fund grant for $675,000 to assist the district in improving its system and a $100,000 water quality improvement grant. Garncarz, who appeared at last week’s meeting, also mentioned other grant opportunities. He indicated that state would work with the district, so it could avoid any potential enforcement action. That’s good news for the Florissant area, which sometimes has struggled with water and sanitation woes and has had its share of state regulators questioning certain aspects of its operations over the last two decades, according to many reports. Also, the district has featured a lively political past.
However, the letters of interest from a variety of board candidates expressed much optimism for the current course of the district. “We are working diligently to bring our district into compliance in all areas,” said Bruvold, who served with the previous board, in a letter to the commissioners. “State representatives from several of the government entities have visited our plant and are working with us sharing their knowledge. They continue to aid us with grant writing to help us secure the much needed funding for the improvement of our systems,” added the board member, who also cited the selection of an accounting firm to ensure that proper records are maintained.