AZTEC — Much of this city's aging infrastructure requires costly upkeep and upgrades to keep residents in service.
After storms last September, flood damage included a sewer line that traverses the Hampton Arroyo behind McCoy Elementary School. Until the pipe could be reconstructed, Electric Department Director Ken George sent four city workers to the fallen pipe to improvise a splint he designed using a telephone pole and chains across the Hampton Arroyo between Sabena Street and Martinez Lane.
The new sewer line was completed Jan. 23.
In mid-December, Austin Randall, the city's purchasing agent, in a notice of emergency procurement outlined the dangers posed by the temporary line.
"The sewer line is at risk of imminent and catastrophic failure... (and) represents a serious threat to the public health and safety of the area," Randall wrote. "If the line continues to fail, sewer service will be lost to a section of the city, which includes an elementary school. Also, if the line continues to fail, it will cause sewage to spill into the Hampton Arroyo, which immediately runs into the Animas River only a few hundred feet away."
On Tuesday, City Commissioners approved paying Sterling Brothers Construction an incentive bonus of $5,000 — or $500 per day for each day the sewer repair was completed ahead of deadline for a maximum of 10 days — for building the new $63,022 sewer line.
The sewer line "is all done and good for the next 100 years," said Public Works Superintendent Sean Ostrander.
Ostrander has been busy in recent weeks completing paperwork to make a Federal Emergency Management Agency claim. In accordance with state statutes on emergency procurements, the city is allowed to seek reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the cost of the emergency work.
The city's main sewer line, called the sewer outfall line, is approximately 7,188 feet in length. It snakes north of the Animas River, roughly parallel to the Elledge Mill Ditch, from the Chaco Street bridge southeast to the waste-water treatment plant on South Oliver Drive.
The outfall line requires upgrades and repairs that are scheduled to begin in the summer.
The project area is bound by mixed-use residential and commercial properties and by the Animas River floodplain to the southeast, which also includes Riverfront Park.
New Public Works Director William Watson and design engineers are in the process of meeting with landowners who reside in the project area to secure easements for property access during construction.
But some residents living in neighborhoods lacking sewer lines wish the city would connect them to the city infrastructure other neighborhoods currently enjoy.
Craig and Cindee Phillips bought their current home on Andrew Drive in the Dillon Heights subdivision in 1998 and have never had city sewer service. Though the couple's neighborhood was annexed into the city years ago, the Phillips and their neighbors are frustrated that they have had to use septic tanks despite paying city taxes.
"We've approached city officials over getting full city service through the years, but we've been sort of blown off," Craig Phillips said. "I believe we've been put to the side.
I know it's going to cost a lot of money but (the city's) spending millions on a walk bridge and the arterial and other projects."
Aztec City Manager Josh Ray said the Phillips' neighborhood is served with city water and electric. He said the city is working to secure community development block grants that will pay for providing waste water services to neighborhoods that don't have them.
"Our city has put a lot of effort into balancing infrastructure projects with community enhancement projects over the last four years," Ray said in a text message. "This is definitely a challenge that we have every year as both are incredibly valuable to our city."