Trustees Decide: No Residential Property Tax Increase for Proposed Commercial Area Sewer Project

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Vacant commercial buildings adjacent to Glasgow Ave - Hwy 145 in Rico.

Ore Cart photo - March 16, 2021


Rico Board of Trustees

Regular Monthly Meeting

March 17, 2021 6:30 PM

video conference



Trustees present Barbara Betts - Mayor

Nicole Pieterse - Mayor Pro Tem,

Joe Croke, Joe Dillsworth, Pat Fallon, Brandy Randall, Esteban Roberts


Town Staff present

Kari Distefano - Town Manager

Linda Yellowman - Town Clerk


Rico residential property owners will not be asked again to approve a Town-wide property tax increase to fund construction of sewer mains and a wastewater treatment plant to serve only the Rico commercial area. Following a presentation of sewer project technology options and cost estimates by Rico Sewer Committee member Gregg Anderson, the Rico Board of Trustees concluded that Rico citizens would not approve a mill levy increase ballot question for this purpose.

Rico voters rejected a $3.4 million proposal to fund a similar project at the November 2019 election.

Discussion among Trustees and citizens attending the video-conference meeting produced a next step for pursuing a commercial area sewer project:

- Inquire with Rico commercial property owners to determine interest in forming a special district for the commercial area.

Summary of SEWER COMMITTEE report

Rico Sewer Committee is a technical group researching sewer and wastewater treatment options suitable for Rico. Members are Gregg Anderson, Paul Ruud, Pat Drew, Alex Wing and Town Manager Kari Distefano.

Sewer Committee’s report to Board of Trustees describes Committee's purpose and completed tasks (excerpts below from report document):


After last sewer initiative failed, Board of Trustees tasked the Town Manager with establishing a Sewer Committee to evaluate alternative wastewater treatment options.

Summary of Tasks Completed:

Identified Suitable Wastewater Treatment Options for Rico

- Gathered information on various wastewater systems that may be applicable to Rico.

Conventional Centralized Plant

STEP Systems

Alternative Treatment Systems

Compare to No Action (Septic tanks and leach fields)

- Produced list of questions for vendors.

- Reached out to vendors and utilities to understand system pros/cons and costs.

- Prepared summary for Board of Trustees.

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The 2019 sewer/wastewater proposed project consisted of a conventional system, with all waste delivered via buried gravity flow sewer mains (pipes) to a wastewater facility for treatment, with discharge to Dolores River. The committee’s March 2020 report to Trustees included an update of conventional system cost, and describes the STEP system alternative:

Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP) systems

Owner maintains septic tank or processor for primary treatment, but there is no leach field. Liquid effluent is pumped to a common, simplified plant for treatment before discharge to river.

Potential Pros:

- Reduced Lot Space Requirement- Removes need for an on-property leach field, allowing for greater constructability of small or commercial lots.

- Reduced Collection System and Treatment Plant Costs

Liquid effluent lines (e.g., 3-inch) can be much smaller diameter than sewer lines, and do not need gravity flow (can flow uphill if needed). Potential to install at shallower depth with careful construction (lines must drain when not pressurized).

Portion of treatment (solids/liquids separation) occurs on lot, reducing treatment plant infrastructure and sewer line size.

Smaller footprint, lower construction and operating costs, readily constructable in phases.

Potential Cons:

- Still requires on-property equipment including tank and pump.

- Engineering requirements for restaurants (grease separation) may not solve lot space issue in all cases.

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Sewer Committee reviewed two STEP systems suitable for installation at Rico, and listed example installations in Colorado:

ORENCO Advantex

PRELOS processor (specialized tank with grinder pump system) replaces the septic tank and leach field at each property. Liquid effluent is collected and treated in a recirculating chamber filled with packed bed of textile fabric biological filters prior to discharge to river.

Our Lady of The Pines Church – Conifer

Vickers Horse River Ranch – Lake City

Taylor River Canyon - Almont

Bio-Microbics FAST Systems

Can use existing vaults - Pumps added to existing (i.e., if 1990 & newer) or replacement septic tanks/vaults (i.e., if older than 1990). Liquid effluent is collected and treated in a submerged aerated biological filter prior to discharge to river.

Top of Lift 5 –Telluride

Pikes Peak Visitor Center

Prairie School – New Raymer

Aspen Park Commercial Center – Evergreen

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Excerpt of Proposed Sewer Collection System - Based on a STEP System map from Sewer Committee report to Rico Board of Trustees - March 17, 2021. Commercial area is shaded orange, and designated Phase 1 in the report. Future sewer collection system proposed expansion phases shown in other color shades. Proposed Phase 1 commercial area sewer lines are dashed-red. Star indicates proposed wastewater treatment facility.

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MAP ABOVE - Ore Cart edits: enlarged street names, enlarged dashed lines indicating sewer mains, arrows indicating flow direction.

Cost comparison - conventional vs. STEP

Phase 1 estimated costs - collection system (sewer mains) and wastewater treatment facility: