County celebrates new sewer system

MOSCA — Alamosa County staff and officials joined Mosca community members Tuesday evening to celebrate the community’s new sewer system.

The new system has been years in the making and has taken cooperation from various agencies to get to this point.

Those involved in the Mosca Wastewater Infrastructure Improvement Project celebrated with a ribbon cutting and potato dinner at the Mosca Fellowship Hall.

“This really is a day to celebrate,” said Alamosa County Commissioner Helen Sigmond. “This project has come in on time and under budget.”

She said there were a few delivery delays due to Hurricane Harvey, but the project is now completed. “I am proud of the work that’s been done,” she said.

Sigmond said her predecessor on the commission, Marianne Dunne, had made this project a priority, and she had as well.

The commissioners acknowledged project engineer Martin Reynolds, contractor Robins Construction, county staff retired Land Use Administrator Ken VanIwarden, current Land Use Administrator Rachel Baird, County Building Inspector Jinger Tilden and Road and Bridge Supervisor Tim DeHerrera whose department and specifically staff member Les Salazar will maintain and monitor the system.

Commissioner Michael Yohn said this project has been a priority for him since joining the county commissioners. “It took time and it took money and trying to find the money for it,” he said. During that time the county had changes in staff, as well, he said.

“It wasn’t a great big project, but it was just difficult,” Yohn added.

Yohn said he hoped the Mosca community would appreciate this project because it addressed a health concern that the county officials knew had to be addressed. He also thanked the Mosca residents for their patience.

Tilden also thanked the Mosca residents and said she had become close to them during this process. “My heart has exploded knowing you guys,” she said. “I have had a lot of opportunity to get to know you guys, and I am just thankful it all turned out.”

Representatives for some of those who helped fund the project were also present Tuesday night. Tineel Baroz, USDA, said this was a unique project in which USDA and the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) partnered to provide funding. She talked about some of the other programs under USDA, such as loans and grants for home repairs.

Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis also acknowledged those who were involved in the project and talked about how this was a federal, state and county cooperative project. She acknowledged past and present land use staff who worked on this project and thanked the New family for donating property to build part of the project on.

Dennis said residents could celebrate because this project means they do not have to put up with odors and sewage backing up.

She said Salazar will take care of the day-to-day operations of the system, which serves 46 taps.

“We really need you all to take a lot of pride in this system,” Dennis told the Mosca residents who were present. “Be conscious what you are throwing down the drain because it’s your system.”

Dennis said residents will pay $40-41 a month and commercial users $75 a month. The county commissioners will officially set the rates during their meeting today.

Dennis said the county cannot shut anyone off, but if they do not pay their sewer bills, the county can put a lien on their taxes.

She added that operating the system will still cost more than the income from monthly payments will generate, so the county will continue subsidizing the system by about $15,000 a year. If the county did not contribute to the continued cost of the system, residents would be paying much more than $40-41 a month, she added.

Commissioner Darius Allen said the problems with the Mosca sewer system (and the county’s ownership of it) came to his attention early on in his 22 years with the county when he received a call from a resident whose septic tank was overflowing, and she was understandably upset. Allen said since that time the county has tried various fixes for the system, and he has received numerous calls when it didn’t.

“I don’t blame them. It’s very frustrating to have a system that doesn’t work,” he said.

With the help of USDA, DOLA and the community, Mosca now has a system that does work, Allen said. The project is complete except for some road patching that cannot be conducted until spring, he added.

Allen recognized county staff who realized this was a health hazard and sought funding to correct the problem.

“I think we have a system now that’s going to last many years,” he said, adding it can accommodate growth in the community if that occurs as well.

He concluded, “We appreciate the residents here hanging in with us.”

Caption: Project partners and community members join Alamosa County officials and staff at the ribbon cutting of the Mosca Wastewater Infrastructure Improvement Project on Tuesday evening./Courier photo by Ruth Heide