More than a year ago, the Star Valley council dropped any contracts it had for well monitoring over fears it had violated the open meeting law and after the council got into a war of words over who it should hire to do the work.
At the time, the council promised it would look at the issue again, but time slipped by and no one publicly questioned who was monitoring the town’s 14 well gauges.
Behind the scenes, Councilor and Water and Sewer Commission Chair Vern Leis was sorting through 44 disks of raw data.
The town’s longtime hydrology firm, Levine-Fricke Inc. (LFR), had given him part of the information when the town ended its contract with LFR in December 2010. Additional information was added as the gauges continued to collect data.
With no firm to sort the data and graph it, Leis, a retired engineer, tried to do the programming himself. But with 17 million records, Leis found the task out of his comfort zone.
Unable to reconfigure the original parameters, Leis has only graphed some of the data to date.
In 2006, the town installed the gauges to monitor its groundwater levels. The gauges were initially installed to monitor the effects of the Tower Well. When Payson agreed to give the town a monthly report on the Tower Well’s pumping, most fears of over pumping eased.
In addition, after analyzing data, Leis found although wells in Star Valley would lower when the Tower Well was on, those wells quickly recovered once it was turned off.
Although no longer worried the Tower Well will deplete its water source, officials say it is important they continue monitoring water levels.
At the March 1 council meeting, Councilor Gary Coon suggested the town hire a hydrology firm to analyze gauge data.
To avoid conflict, Coon recommended the town pick a third party engineer not involved with Payson, SRP, the Forest Service or Blue Ridge.
In December 2010, Star Valley dropped its contract with LFR after it submitted a bid of $23,500 to monitor 15 wells. Instead, the town entered into a contract with Tetra Tech who it said it would offer similar services for $12,250.
In February 2010, the council revisited the issue after Coon pointed out that the council had violated the open meeting law. Coon argued the agenda item had not explicitly listed Tetra Tech, so the public was not given proper notice. In addition, LFR was not given an opportunity to defend its bid.
After a heated debate, the council decided not to go with Tetra Tech or LFR.
After a year, Coon wondered what had happened to the project.
He suggested on March 1 that the council should reopen the bidding process and consider LFR if they entered a proposal.
Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier said he would begin seeking bids for well monitoring.
Mayor Bill Rappaport supported the council’s decision to hire a firm.
“God forbid someone turns on their tap and no water comes out,” he said. “We want to be able to answer what we have been doing if it does.”
In other council news:
• The town approved another $5,000 for the Meals on Wheels program. Since the Payson Senior Center expanded the program to Star Valley, it has seen enrollment rise from 10 to 18 seniors. The town has already given the program $5,000.
• Calvary Paving was awarded a $95,500 contract to repair/pave Moonlight Drive.