Glenwood Springs mayor decries legislation that’s delaying city’s wastewater project
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen expressed his frustration at City Council’s Dec. 3 meeting, regarding the new federal legislation that will likely require the city’s wastewater treatment facility project to be rebid, which could lead to higher costs.
Christensen voiced his concerns regarding the 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill that was signed into law on Oct. 30, halting Glenwood’s wastewater project in its tracks.
“I have to say that this is one of the most frustrating and irrational things that I’ve ever dealt with,” Christensen said.
The city of Glenwood had already approved the terms of the loan through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority prior to Oct. 30 when the new law took effect, but were awaiting the authority to issue the bond sale on Nov. 17.
The new legislation retroactively required all state and local 2009 projects, not only federal projects, to include a Davis-Bacon wage requirement in any contracts that had not yet secured financing.
That decision was shortsighted in Christensen’s opinion.
“I am absolutely appalled at Congress’s lack of vision,” he said. “I have my own personal opinion on why this happened, but to retroactively apply something that is so drastically going to affect people all over the west, is just ridiculous.”
Mayor Christensen said that he’s personally attempted to contact both Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall, both Democrats, who Christensen said were working very hard on behalf of the affected communities to try and find some resolution to this issue. However, Christensen expressed frustration with a perceived lack of interest from Democratic 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Salazar.
“I’ve repeatedly attempted to reach Congressman Salazar and have not had any luck,” Christensen said.
Rep. Salazar is a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which oversaw the formation of the bill.
The Colorado Municipal League (CML) has requested direct assistance from the State’s Congressional Delegation, and is currently weighing the options on how affected municipalities should proceed in the coming weeks. The league’s main concern is that several of the small communities that have been affected may have trouble affording the new loans.
The intent of the bill, in the context of the Clean Drinking Water and Wastewater Programs, was to appropriate $3.9 billion to help more than 1,500 communities improve their drinking water and wastewater systems.
The league contends that the result of this legislation makes it much more difficult for Colorado municipalities to afford the extensive infrastructure improvements that are necessary and, ironically, often mandated by the same federal government imposing prevailing wage requirements, according to Kevin Bommer with the CML.
Bommer said that while Sen. Bennet and Sen. Udall have responded to CML requests to look into the issue, the CML has also not received a response from Rep. Salazar.
Udall contacted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Nov. 24 asking for some resolution to the issue, days before the EPA responded by saying that the wage requirements would have to be included in the projects that had not secured financing prior to Oct. 30.
While Udall expressed his opinion that including Davis-Bacon provisions “helps ensure fair treatment of the American worker,” it puts many Colorado projects in jeopardy.
“I have heard from constituents and officials in Colorado who would be affected by this interpretation,” Udall wrote. “They are considering halting important projects because of this interpretation’s impact on existing contracts.”
Udall urged the EPA’s Office of General Counsel to consider the impacts on existing projects that were signed before the end of the 2009 calendar year. However, the EPA upheld the inclusion of the requirement.
“To change the legislation now would take an act of Congress,” Bommer said.
Christensen called the mess “incredibly wasteful” and “unfair.”
“To get blindsided retroactively at the last minute is just an example, to me, of why people lose faith in government,” Christensen said.
Attempts seeking comment from Rep. Salazar’s office Monday were not immediately returned.
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