Neighborhood Updates 7: Pets, Drinking Water, Dirt Hauling, Budget Items, Apex and More


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends, 

I’ve taken a summer break from writing CLRC Notes the last few weeks and there is a lot to catch up on.  I’ll start with some short notes first and do some single-subject Notes a little later on.

WATCH YOUR PETS

Wild animals have been moving into our neighborhoods lately.  Pet cats have been disappearing in my own area.  There have been frequent sightings of large raccoons and raccoons with kits in the blocks adjacent to Ralston Creek.  The raccoons have been going into open garages and backyards and tipping over trash cans to look for food.  My neighbors say they have been standing their ground when confronted.  And they can be difficult to chase off with the usual banging of pots and pans.

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Think twice if you have been letting your cats or small dogs out at night.  Foxes and coyotes have also been seen in the neighborhood lately.  The dry weather may be what’s attracting them.  While there may not be much forage in the foothills, my neighbors are seeing a bumper crop of apples and peaches.  That seems to have made the squirrel population jump as well.

The other worry is that rabies has been spreading into the skunk populations in the counties surrounding the metro area in recent months.  Ft Collins has been harder hit than most areas.  Raccoons can also carry canine distemper.  Be safe.  If you have let your pets’ vaccinations lapse, now would be a good time to give your vet a call.  If you see any wild animal acting strangely (one of the signs of rabies), call animal control.  I don’t think they dispatch at night, but at least they will be aware of what you saw.

YUCKY DRINKING WATER

Speaking of dry weather, we could really use a good rain, says utilities director Jim Sullivan.  He says we are maxed out on the water we can draw from Denver Water coming out of the foothills.  Arvada usually has better tasting water that just about any city I’ve lived in or visited — but not this summer.

To meet the high demand from the dry summer, the City has been drawing water from its backup supply in the Arvada/Blunn reservoir.  Normally that’s not a problem, but the consistently warm temperatures this year have caused blue-green algae to grow in our reservoir and in other lakes in the metro area. 

That’s why the tap water has been tasting so bad lately.  There is no danger of the City running out of water and our treated tap water is perfectly safe to drink.  Moreover, different people have different senses of smell and many people don’t seem to notice the musty taste at all. 

But for others, the algae can make the water unpleasant to drink.  I’m one of those.  I’ve been drinking bottled water for weeks now and I can even taste the moldy odor when I make iced tea.  My favorite, locally bottled ElDoradoSprings water, tastes pretty good and only costs a dollar a gallon at the local supermarket.  I’ve been keeping jugs in the fridge for weeks now.  Judging from the checkout baskets and the busy stocking clerks at King Soopers, a lot of other people have been doing the same thing.  I’ve heard that home water filters using activated charcoal cartridges also work pretty well. 

The problem is likely to persist.  Mr Sullivan says City users would have to lower their water demand by 30% for the treatment plant to go back to using only their mountain water supply.  A good rain and lower temperatures would help a lot.  The City has also been using activated charcoal in its treatment plant, but it has not been enough to keep up.

The good news is that the problem may not come back next year, even if we do get another hot summer and more algae.  The City is adding a new and more advanced activated charcoal filtration system to the treatment plant.  The new system is expected to come on line in November. 

DUST, WEEDS AND DIRT HAULING AT GARRISON

Drinking water isn’t the only thing affected by the hot, dry weather.  The ongoing construction at the new park at Garrison Street stirs up a fair amount of dust, especially when the wind blows.  Dirt movers seem to create the most dust, but much of it seems to be blowing off the large stockpile of excavated dirt on the site that is becoming known locally as “Dirt Mountain” or “Mount Hoskinson”.  The stockpile’s persistence has lead to speculation that the contractor hasn’t yet found a place to dispose of all the dirt he has to remove from the park under his contract and is sending small amounts to any place that will take the material.

That’s not all bad.  Much of the excavated dirt near the creek is of topsoil quality and has been seen being trucked to a local greenhouse.  It’s nice to hear what would otherwise be waste material being recycled like that.  You may end up getting some Ralston Creek topsoil in your local greenhouse sets next spring.  

What is bad is haul routes that send large dirt-hauling trucks through residential streets.  I see it occasionally and have heard several complaints from my neighbors.  Usually it is just a few loads at a time, but the trucks are not supposed to haul down residential streets and the City’s project managers may not know that’s happening.  If you are having problems with residential truck traffic, the designated manager to contact is Vicky Reier, at Vicky-r@arvada.org or 720-898-7509. 

Eventually, Mount Hoskinson has to be removed entirely and the designated haul route for that is supposed to be via Ralston Road.

When the winds die down, the dust problem pretty much goes away.  But no winds can bring another problem.  The contractors are running several pumps on the site to dewater excavations and to move sewage across the creek during construction.  Those generators and pumps are impressively quiet but they seem to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they also need security and night lighting.  When the air is very still, the construction site smells a bit like a truck stop from those diesel engines.

Weeds growing along Brooks Drive (up to six feet tall) have been another complaint, but they have recently been cut down.  With a little herbicide and the coming winter, they shouldn’t be a problem any longer.  

A reported problem for the contractor is people visiting the worksite to look around after working hours and on weekends.  It’s tempting to do, but construction sites have a lot of hazards, some of which aren’t obvious, and the police department has been challenging people they find in the park after construction hours.

Some businesses near the construction site have been reporting a drop-off in customer visits.  I’ll be writing more about that soon.  But the situation may be helped a bit by the partial reopening of Garrison Street from Ralston Road allowing better access to the strip mall with Chuck E Cheese in it.  However, only two lanes are opening up, and the intersection itself is scheduled for reconstruction work later this year. 

What will help the local shops even more is the full reopening of Garrison Street.  That’s not supposed to happen till the end of February according to the signs posted on the street.  However, Public Works Director Bob Manwaring says that he thinks that can be pushed up to some time in January if the good weather holds.

RALSTON ROAD

Heard any progress on getting sidewalks put in on Ralston Road?  I haven’t, but there may be some action soon.  The Arvada City Council is scheduled to approve a new consultant contract for the central corridor at its September 17th meeting.  The consultant is expected to work with property owners along the road to figure out the best way to improve the sidewalks and pedestrian access without hurting local businesses.

At the CLRC’s annual meeting in July, City Manager Mark Deven reaffirmed that he expects a fully signalized intersection to be put in at Estes Street to aid pedestrian access to the new park after construction.

BUDGET

The City hasn’t been finalized the 2013/2014 budget yet and there won’t be a time set aside for public comment until the City Council’s open meeting on October 1st.  But, overall, the numbers are running very well for Arvada.  The City has been pulling in more sales tax revenue than expected lately and the City has been able to plan on funding more popular infrastructure projects such as road maintenance and reconstruction.

We’ve already written about the proposal to set aside at least some of the money needed to build a recreation center (and possibly a pool) to spur the redevelopment of the Triangle shopping center.  There will be more on the budget in future CLRC Notes, but here are a few of the proposed items that it looks like the City Council is going to agree on.

RESURFACING

Street improvements are being proposed for our neighborhoods that will overlay Garrison and Carr Streets north from Ralston Road — presumably after the park construction is complete.  Those resurfacings should go all the way to the Oberon Road.  Scheduled as well is a chip-seal coat on Kipling Street from 51st to 58th Avenues.

CURBSIDE PICK UP

The proposed budget also includes a spring curbside pickup that is expected to happen in 2013.  The curbside pickup is a free City service to pick up large items that our regular trash haulers won’t take without a special (and often very large) fee.  After running the program annually, the City dropped the popular service all together some years ago saying it was too expensive, but then brought it back for odd-numbered years.  That continues in this proposed budget. 

For a couple of reasons it has also gotten much cheaper to run the pickup program.  The recession has been bringing in lower bids for much of the City’s contracted work.  But also, the high cost of scrap metal has meant that there is less to be picked up by the City’s contractors when they make their runs.  I’ve heard many anecdotal stories of scrap metal haulers picking up just about anything with metal in it before the City trucks arrive.  Items like old water heaters and dishwashers, rusted out BBQ pits, chain-link fence, even tattered old couches with pull-out beds, are disappearing the day before the real pickup takes place thanks to roving metal recyclers.

What had been about a quarter-million dollar budget item years ago has dropped to $200 thousand in the proposed budget for 2013.  But the bids may come in even lower than that.  In 2011 the City only had to pay its contractors $175 thousand for the service.  For what averages out to be less than a dollar a year per person, the program does a lot to spiff up older neighborhoods.  And it is a real help to more needy citizens who can’t afford to pay their trash hauler $30 to take away an old couch.

WATER AND SEWER RATES

What’s bad in the budget?  Our pay-as-you go water and sewer rates are certain to go up again.  Arvada’s rates are among the lowest in the metro area, but we buy our untreated water from Denver Water who needs to raise its own rates by 12% next year just to keep even with its costs.  Similarly, as do many other metro-area cities, we send all of our sewage to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for treatment.  Their costs have also skyrocketed as they try to meet new water quality standards for their South Platte River discharge.  Metro is planning to increase the rates it charges the City of Arvada by 10.5% in 2013.

The City has no choice but to pass on at least some of these increases to our users.  How much?  Currently, the proposal is to increase our water rates by 4.7% in 2013 and our sewer rates by 5.8%.  Mayor Marc Williams pointed out that bond rating companies look closely to see whether cities are charging what it costs for them to provide water and sewer services.  Not raising the rates could mean that Arvada’s credit rating would be lowered.  If that happened, Arvada would end up paying more to borrow the money needed to fund construction projects in the future.

APEX AND THE ARVADA CENTER

At an August 13th workshop the Arvada City Council asked the City Staff to draft a rewrite of the Arvada Center’s Master Plan to accommodate a new Apex recreation center at the Arvada Center.

That won’t be easy.  The Center’s current Master Plan already calls for building a large parking structure to handle growing demand — as well as other facilities on its available space.  The current plan also says that it would be irresponsible to use any part of Center’s campus to be used for anything other than arts and humanities.  

But Apex’s director, Mike Miles, said that Apex needed a high-visibility space to build a “star” recreational facility that would appeal to a regional market.  The Council seems to agree.  Since it was a workshop session, no formal vote was taken on the Apex plan.  Only Councilor Don Allard seemed to hold back saying that he couldn’t say yes or no on allowing a recreation facility at the Arvada Center until there were more details on what was to be built.

While saying he was supportive, the Arvada Center’s interim director, Clark Johnson, said that he didn’t really know what Apex was asking to do at the site.  Oddly, Apex said they didn’t know either and were still trying to work that out.  They did know that it would involve a pool, but all the other details had yet to be decided upon. 

Nor does Apex appear to have the money needed to build a new recreational center at the site.  That issue would have to go to the voters in a bond election.  That is expected to happen in 2014.

Apex recently accepted a citizens’ committee recommendation to not build a replacement for the Fisher Pool in south Arvada because the residents of the district overall did not want to build recreational facilities that did not fully pay for their own operating expenses.  As a matter of note, the Arvada Center itself does not fully pay its own operating expenses.  The City of Arvada currently supports the Center with a contribution of about $3.5 million a year — about 35% of the Center’s annual budget.  The committee estimated that a community-sized [outdoor pool] would have an annual operating loss of more than $10,000 a year.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community regularly posts information on its website at http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ as it becomes available.  Or you can friend us on Facebook.  Our new Facebook name is now ‘Clrc Arvada’.

Photo credits:  The snarling pet raccoon picture is by Angela Harris from her site at Hubpages.com.

John Kiljan, CLRC Notes: 303-423-9875 or jpkiljan@yahoo.com

September 12, 2012

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