Voters in southwestern La Plata County gave solid support Tuesday to a request by the La Plata-Archuleta Water District to borrow up to $25 million to build a network of plants and pipelines to treat and distribute potable water.
With all votes counted, 952, or 56 percent, of the voters favored the measure, compared with 736, or 44 percent, who were against it.
“We're gratified that residents have supported us for the third time,” said Dick Lunceford, chairman of the water district board, a reference to the initial approval of the district and a decision last year to authorize a source of operating funds.
“We're going to be very cautious in the way we borrow money,” Lunceford said.
The spending authorized Tuesday will provide construction money to expand the city of Bayfield's water-treatment plant.
The borrowed money also will be used to buy water-treatment equipment, storage tanks, software, meters, communication and water-quality monitoring equipment and to pay employee salaries.
The cost of repaying the debt will be about $45.4 million at an interest rate not to exceed 6.5 percent.
Voters approved formation of the district three years ago. In May 2010, they approved a 5-mill levy and lifted the district's revenue limit, giving the district money to operate.
Once a way to treat and deliver water is assured, the district can use water from Vallecito Reservoir through a contract it signed with the Pine Ridge Irrigation District.
The contract allows the district to purchase up to 200 acre-feet of water a year. An acre-foot of water would cover a football field to the depth of 1 foot.
The first customers served will be in southeastern La Plata County, along County Road 509 and County Road 510. The distribution system will be expanded to southwestern Archuleta County.
In the long haul, district leaders say, they may need a second water-treatment plant, but for the time being, the district is on its way.