Saratoga to begin 6th penny projects

Council, JPB put Spring Street water main at top of list

The Saratoga Town Council and the Saratoga-Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board (SCCIJPB) are beginning to look at projects for the One Percent Specific Purpose Sales and Use Tax (6th penny tax).

During the December 21 meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, Councilmember Jon Nelson informed the rest of the governing body the SCCIJPB had selected a project for the 6th penny tax funds. According to Nelson, a water main break on October 5 in front of Town Hall made the decision for the joint powers board.

“Clearly, following the break we had out here in front of town hall, I think the Spring Street project catapulted itself to the front of the list. That was discussed further at the last meeting and that decision was made to pursue that project,” said Nelson. “So, that’ll be replacing the water main in Spring Street from River (Street) to 3rd (Street), including a portion that runs in River Street from Spring (Street) over to the water treatment plant. Essentially, the water treatment plant to the elementary school.”

On October 5, during a meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, the water main under Spring Street between River and 1st Street burst. This resulted in flooding of the street and several days of work to replace the broken water main.

When the 6th penny tax appeared before Carbon County voters in May 2019, the projects for the Town of Saratoga included the rehabilitation and repair of water lines beneath the North Platte River, Spring Street and River Street and the replacement of Spring Street from River Street to 4th Street.

“The question I have for the council tonight is how we’d like to proceed in starting to pursue that project,” Nelson said. “My thought was that we need to prepare an RFP (Request For Proposal) and go out and request proposals from qualified engineering firms for the design phase and contract administration phase of that kind of project. I’m certainly open to any other thoughts or comments about how to proceed and if anybody has any brilliant desire in terms of schedule or how to do it.”

Mayor Creed James asked if the RFPs for work on the Spring Street water main would look similar to the bid packets which went out for the upcoming water meter replacement project.

“The packets that went out for the water meter installation was a contract for the installation. We’re trying to get bids from contractors for installing meters. There really isn’t any design or engineering or construction or administration on that project that wouldn’t be handled by the Town. This would be trying to solicit a design firm and so it’s really more a request for proposals than it is a bid,” said Nelson. “The last one that I’m aware of the Town doing was when there was a request for proposals for the lagoon improvements projects.”

As the council discussed going out for proposals for the project, Councilmember Ron Hutchins expressed some confusion over whose responsibility it was to publish an RFP for the project.

“This is not a political statement, it’s just a total lack of my understanding of how it all works,” said Hutchins. “From what I’ve read, the joint powers board owns the system. Is that correct? And we manage the system and it looks to me like issuing RFPs for the system would be not a function of the people managing the system but the people that own it.”

Though Hutchins had been physically absent from recent meetings of the governing body, he had attended via phone. During that time, an issue regarding a request for a lift station from the Saratoga Airport Advisory Board had brought to the forefront the question as to who had more authority between the Saratoga Town Council and the SCCIJPB. 

“This could be argued, and I’m sure it will be. The system that’s been improved with specific purpose tax money, that’s not joint powers board money. That’s not revenue from the system, that’s not user fees, that’s not tap fees, that’s specific purpose tax revenue that’s collected and Town of Saratoga receives that money,” said Nelson. “I believe what the joint powers board agreement states is that the joint powers board owns the portions of the system it has constructed. By using specific purpose tax money to improve the infrastructure of the water system, I do think it is a Town project.”

Under the joint powers board agreement, which first formed the SCCIJPB in 1976, it reads “Any facilities constructed under this Agreement by the Board shall be owned by the Board provided that the Board shall hold title to any facilities in trust for the benefit of the party which is intended to be benefited thereby”. It also reads “Any funds received by the Board from any source shall be expended to carry out the purpose of this Agreement”.

The joint powers board agreement also reads “The ultimate responsibility for planning, construction and operating the extensions and improvements contemplated by this agreement shall rest with the Board”.

“It’s not a battle that we should have to have. We should all be driving towards the same goal. Is it an important question to ask and everyone to understand so that some of the other issues may be more easily resolved? Yes,” Nelson said. “Ultimately I don’t really care, personally, how it gets done. I think we have an obligation to work together to get these projects completed and use the money for the purpose they were intended.” 

Nelson further informed the council any potential of working on the Spring Street water main would have to wait until 2023. According to the council member, it was too late in the year to go out for RFPs and schedule construction for summer 2022.

“There’s no severe urgency for getting this RFP assembled, out, advertising, interviews, somebody signed up and get them cracking on the design,” said Nelson. “I think we need to do that within 60 days so we’re not dragging this out until the end of 2022 and then we’re right back into the same position where we’re not ready to go out to bed in 2023.”

While there would be a waiting period, James asked Nelson if it was possible to pursue two different projects using 6th penny funds. Nelson told the rest of the council it was possible as the Town of Saratoga had collected nearly $2.5 million in 6th penny tax revenue and the Spring Street project was estimated to cost around $1 million.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on January 4, 2022 at the Saratoga Town Hall.


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