More than 20 consultants and interested members of the public filled the Board of County Commissioners meeting room at the Elbert County Courthouse in Kiowa on Dec. 3 to hear details regarding the county's request for proposals from contractors interested in preparing a preliminary water and wastewater infrastructure master plan for the county.
Kurt Schlegel, the District 2 County Commissioner, presided over the mandatory pre-submittal meeting and Sean O'Hearn, the county engineer, presented the parameters and limitations to the interested firms and opened the floor to questions.
“It's a first step to understand what water systems could look like in this unique county,” O'Hearn told representatives from the consulting firms. “It should be better thought out than what we have seen over the past 10 years, which is just, sort of, a one-off answer to a 700-lot subdivision or a commercial/residential development.”
The county is hoping to work with a single firm to develop a preliminary master plan based on a consultant's assessment of local water supplies, an assessment of the existing wastewater system, projected growth and demand, and residential and commercial development patterns.
“What's our goal? To come up with a master plan that is practical that the county commissioners, the county planning commission, and so on can use to make decisions,” O'Hearn said. “Being practical is very important. To put a master plan together that ends up being a good read and sits on a shelf is not the goal.”
O'Hearn asserted that state agencies such as the Colorado Department of Local Affairs are more confident the county will spend money wisely and are therefore more likely to provide funding when it is approached by a county with a master plan. He cited the $3 million the county has received for road improvements since it created a transportation master plan.
He also emphasized that the winning plan needs to create a good value for the county, saying that in Elbert County every nickel matters. The estimated cost for the study is around $50,000 and the deadline to submit proposals is Jan. 7.
“We don't know what we don't know, and that's why we want to rely on you all. Like Sean says, you're the experts. We're not,” said Schlegel to close the meeting. “This is the first step down a road that we in Elbert County have never taken before, so we need a roadmap to get from point A to point B.”
Not everyone, however, agrees on the route to point B. On Nov. 12, the BOCC voted two to one to authorize the request for proposals during its scheduled meeting, and the RFP was posted the following day.
Larry Ross, District 3 county commissioner, cast the dissenting vote, asserting the development of a water and wastewater infrastructure master plan exceeded the scope of the BOCC's authority. Ross questioned the RFP's legality under the Local Government Land Use Authority in Colorado, specifically referencing the Community Development Office's language stating, “It is the responsibility of a county or municipal planning commission (rather than the governing body) to prepare and adopt a master plan for the physical development of the communities.”
Schlegel strongly refuted Ross' interpretation as it applied to the RFP, saying that only the BOCC can appropriate funds and the RFP calls on experts to explore options that could be incorporated into a master plan. Schlegel also asserted that any recommendations made by a consultant would be non-binding.