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Vandals leave water dock closed for now

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

The city of Durango’s water dock, seen Monday, may be out of commission a month or so after being vandalized Oct. 15. Vandals got away with $100 to $300 in $1 bills and quarters.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The destruction by vandals of the Durango public water dock in the 500 block of South Camino del Rio is a huge nuisance for numerous people who don’t have any other source of potable water.

“This puts the hurt on a lot of people,” said Jon Krueger, a resident on La Posta Road (County Road 213) south of Durango. “A lot of us out there have wells, but they don’t produce anymore.”

Krueger, a metal fabricator in the summer and a ski guide in the winter, will drive to Bayfield to keep his 1,700-gallon cistern full.

“We need the water for drinking, cooking, bathing and the garden,” Krueger said.

Vandals destroyed the dock at 5 a.m. on Oct. 15. The time was recorded when they ripped out the data-link cable that connects the dock to an administrative office. The intruders took $100 to $300 in $1 bills and quarters.

It looks like the dock won’t reopen soon.

The majority of water-dock users, like Krueger, are residents of unincorporated areas of La Plata County who aren’t on a water system, don’t have a well, have a nonproducing well or have a well with undrinkable water.

David Wylie, who is retired from administration in the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, is one of them.

Wylie, who gets 30 gallons a day from a well – about four toilet flushes, he said – has used the water dock for 25 years. It was previously at Chapman Hill but moved recently to its present location to allow construction of the roundabout on Florida Road.

The loss of the water dock is more than an inconvenience, Wylie said. There is the cost of fuel and time to drive to Bayfield.

La Posta Road residents aren’t alone in their discontent, Butch Knowlton, director of emergency management for La Plata County, said Monday.

“A sizable number of people all over the county depend on the Durango water dock,” Knowlton said. “Many people have a seasonal well that dries up with the drought.”

Residents of eastern La Plata County can go to Bayfield and residents in the south can use the dock in Ignacio operated by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Knowlton said. But residents of other areas count on the Durango water dock.

Steve Salka, the city’s director of utilities, said a quick fix of the dock isn’t possible.

“It’s going be a while before the dock is back in service,” Salka said. “We’ve got parts on order, some of which are still being manufactured.”

He estimated the dock would be down “a month or so.”

The parts list includes the steel enclosure, the doors, the data-link antenna and wiring, Salka said.

Still to come are the components of a card-reading system, which will require a debit card to buy water. Cash no longer will be accepted, Salka said.

Until the dock is back in service, water users will have to travel to similar stations in Bayfield (474 Mountain View Drive), Ignacio (state Highway 172 just south of County Road 318) or Mancos (399 South Mesa Street) to fill up.

Bayfield Town Manager Chris La May didn’t know Monday if use at the Bayfield dock has increased since the Durango dock closed.

“We won’t measure until the end of the month,” La May said. “But we saw a steep increase in use over the summer.”

The town dock does $30,000 to $40,000 worth of business a year, La May said. At 25 cents for 40 gallons, $30,000 would buy 4.8 million gallons.

Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc is talking to county officials about helping with replacement costs since county residents are the majority users, Salka said.

It’s time the county stepped up and helped its residents, Wylie said.

LeBlanc wasn’t available for comment Monday.

daler@durangoherald.com

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