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Just Say “Yes!”

Friday, September 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
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By Lindsey Geiger

 

Bravo to the AWWA teams of volunteers that have gone to work and are paving the way for Community Engineering Corps! Thanks to your hard work, the program has hosted 12 AWWA volunteer teams, bringing valuable expertise to US communities in seven states. We have come a long way, but our work is not finished and we need everyone’s help!  With so many options to get involved, it may be a challenge to know where to start. From identifying potential community partners to engaging volunteers in your Section, the first step is simple: just say “Yes!”

The Rocky Mountain Section’s first “yes” came from a volunteer, Dave Pier. Dave saw the value in the program for the good work that could be done right here in his home state of Colorado. Knowing the needs were vast, Dave set out to identify a potential community partner. He worked with his contacts at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC). RCAC knew of just the place to approach, and so it connected Dave with a small community 50 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo.

 

Meet MaryAnne DellaFera

RCAC put Dave in touch with MaryAnne DellaFera, president of the board of directors of High Country Estates Homeowners Association in Red Feather Lakes, Colo. A member of the “new” board, MaryAnne is committed to long-term planning for her system.  She’s prepared for positive disruptions, having taken the reins from the previous board, which had been less diligent in its duties and had left her with limited financial reserves.

MaryAnne lives in one of 12 full-time residences that form part of a total of 23 households in Red Feather Lakes. A neighboring restaurant, Basil at The Eighty One, serves as a local meeting place and has been a long-term business tenant in the area. Most of MaryAnne’s neighbors are over the age of 50, and the median income for the community’s population is approximately $47,000, well under the state average. With limited financial assets and elevated sensitivity regarding the homeowners’ water rates, MaryAnne has a mountain to climb; at the base of that mountain is prioritizing the system’s issues and allocating for the best solutions.

  

A mountain to climb

The community is served by two wells that provide up to 12.63 acre feet of water for domestic water use. The water distribution and sewer system networks are composed of PVC pipes that run together in a single corridor that is divided into four chambers. The water pipes run in one chamber and sewer pipes in another. In addition, at every house, the water and the sewer pipes exit the corridor together, with no separation between them; and, the utility boxes house both the water and the sewer shutoffs. Sewer pipe leaks contaminate the utility boxes and corridor chambers where the water pipes run. Water and sewer pipe breaks have occurred in the same areas, greatly increasing the risk of contaminating drinking water. Because the utility boxes are so shallow, the likelihood of drinking water becoming contaminated is a common problem. In the first ten months of 2016 there had been four major water main breaks that left the community vulnerable and without safe water for weeks at a time.

 

Although MaryAnne is prepared to set the community on the right path with better planning and increased financial reserves, these changes are difficult for many residents.

A Helping Hand from Local Experts

 

The Rocky Mountain Section and Community Engineering Corps is helping the community, and there is a Young Professional who is leading the work to help the community. Marina Kopytkovskiy is an engineer volunteering as the project team lead for the Red Feather Lakes project. She met Dave at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Section Conference when he was recruiting team members. Networking at Section events paid off for Marina, and she was assigned the role of project lead—another “Yes!”

 

As the lead, Marina is managing a diverse team of volunteers. Because of the scope of the project, she’s working with two technical leads: one responsible engineer in charge of the drinking water aspects and another dedicated to the wastewater components of the project. Her core project team is fleshed out with a distribution expert and, of course, Dave as a key communicator. Because she understands the value of a well-rounded team, Marina also has included among her team of volunteers members who have experience with financial resources, public communication and outreach, and water rights.

 

Marina and her team have been working closely with MaryAnne, the board, and their community. The team has just completed working on a scope of work and schedule that meets the community’s needs and will establish a path to success over the coming months. When their project is complete, the volunteers will have equipped MaryAnne and the Red Feather Lakes community with the information and resources needed to advance their water and wastewater systems.

 

How will your Section say “Yes!”?

Partner with a local community? Engage enthusiastic volunteers? “Yes!!!”

For more success stories and information on how you can say “Yes,” please visit www.communityengineeringcorps.org or contact Lindsey Geiger (lgeiger@awwa.org).

 


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