Updates to Meeker water system long overdue

MEEKER | In November Meeker’s board of trustees voted to reject the lowest bid on a project to update the town’s water system, with some trustees expressing concerns that the lowest bid on the project was close to $100,000 lower than the next highest bid, which was submitted by a local business.
Because part of the funding is coming from a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant, the town is required to accept the lowest bid unless there is a valid reason to reject the bid, or risk losing the grant funding. The DOLA grant is a 50 percent matching grant for Phase 1 of the project, to the tune of $318,000. Phase one will upgrade the electrical supply and replace the Supervisory Control and Data Acquistion system. In Phase 2, the town will add two more wells to the existing six that supply the town’s water. The town has already paid for the cost of the investigation and design.
Town Administrator Scott Meszaros said the low bid was actually closest to the estimate provided by Olsson Associates, the engineering firm contracted to review the water system and provide a plan for upgrades. On Dec. 12, representatives from Olsson and the low bidder will respond to the trustees’ questions during the town’s regular board meeting.
From a layman’s view, the proposed water project, with a cost of approximately $1.6 million, seems immense. As long as the water is running, what’s the problem?
“I still have a fax machine and a rotary phone in my office,” said Town Manager Scott Meszaros, comparing the current water monitoring and computer system to modern equipment. “It’s like dial-up technology.” Olsson’s presentation to DOLA described the technology as “antiquated.”
Water for the town of Meeker is supplied by a system of wells southeast of town that draw water directly from an alluvial supply and is then pumped to town through a series of pump stations.
The town has worked extensively with White River Electric Association to improve the electrical supply to the water system, which undergoes significant increases in demand, especially during irrigation season, that strain the system.
“WREA has been a very good partner,” Meszaros said, but more upgrades are necessary to secure the system.
The SCADA equipment now in use was a hand-me-down from the City of Rifle when it upgraded its water system nearly 20 years ago. Replacement parts for the equipment are now impossible to find.
In a worst-case scenario, if the current system was damaged by lightning, flooding or vandalism, the town could be without water until someone could be flown in to replace the computer system.
“This is our lifeline,” Meszaros said. “The board has made it the No. 1 priority to get this done.”
The board of trustees meets again on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.