I just got back from a meeting of mayors and commissioners in a neighboring county, about 45 miles up the road from here. It was a first since the town hosting the meeting is the arch-rival of our own town with a long history of rivalry going back to the late 1800's. The mayor of M (as I shall call the neighboring town), Jack, called and invited me to attend last week. You might remember Jack from this post where he arranged for me to be railroaded into the Presidency of District 1 of the Colorado Municipal League. It is kind of funny that Jack and I have developed a relationship to get things done in cooperation just as we are both term limited out of office. I'm gone in November and Jack is done in January.
So I grabbed the city manager and we journeyed up the road to attend the meeting. We weren't sure what to expect, but expected it to be interesting none the less. We got there and were welcomed with open arms by Jack and the rest of the attendees. It turned out to be a useful meeting all around, as we got to hear what projects each of the towns and the other county were pursuing, what the biggest problems they were facing were, and how they were approaching these issues. And the interesting and unsurprising thing - they face the same problems and issues we face.
The biggest issue for all the attendees was water. Here in the water short American West, you would expect it to be the number one topic and it was. But it was like the old parable of the blind man and the elephant. Each of us had a different aspect of the water problem to consider and as a consequence it looked different but had a common theme. Some of the towns had been slow to recognize the importance of securing decreed water rights earlier and were now in the (expensive) process of acquiring some. Others had adopted long range transport of mountain water shares and were now dealing with the costs and distribution issues. Our city had the foresight to secure water rights, but we are now facing the changing regulations determining out treatment processes as discussed here. Many of the attending cities are very interested in our experience since we are the guinea pig for how to handle the new regulations. That's because we are the largest city out here and thus get stuck going first through the regulatory maze.
Then there was discussion of nuts and bolts, things like budgets and revenue projections. Topics such as potholing and crack sealing and ... One outcome was a chance to coordinate some projects to put together unified bids which might result in lower costs due to overall size. We already have one project underway between our city, M and M's sister city. It is a project to determine what would be needed to have the various railroad crossings in our communities declared part of a quiet zone. We have ~30 coal trains (one mile long trains transporting coal) a day passing over the tracks that bisect our communities. That wasn't too bad until the federal regulations on train horns changed a few years ago and they became 100dB+ annoyances at every crossing, even those controlled by gated arms and lights. But there are pathways to make such intersections controlled to a point where the train horn regulations can be abated. The problem is that a city like ours has 7 such intersections and a naive approach can cost more that $1 million per intersection to achieve quiet zone status. So the three cities pooled funds and grants to have an engineering study done to see if there weren't cost effective methods to achieve quiet. This becomes a further quality of life issue since th number of coal trains will rise to 40-50 in the coming year and may hit 100 or more in a few more years. This is because all the trains are being routed out here rather than through the high population areas due to yet another changed federal regulation.
Well, that should be enough rambling on topics of absolutely no interest to 99% of the readers of this blog.
For extra credit - did you know what potholing was before you read the link?