Ouray became the first city on the Western Slope, perhaps the first in the state, to install the new light-emitting diode lights in all 100 of its streetlights.
The old lights contained toxic mercury, said Risch, adding that the town’s savings from installing cleaner, more energy-efficient lights is already evident..
“We just sent a check to San Miguel Power for Main Street lighting and it’s 60 percent lower than a year ago,” he said.
The cost of installing the new lights was split among the city, San Miguel Power Association and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. City manager Patrick Rondinelli said the city should recoup its investment in two years. Ouray is also working with municipalities in San Miguel County to look at ways to create more energy, Risch said.
Within the past year, mayors from both Ouray and San Miguel counties began to have quarterly meetings to find ways to reach common goals, he said. At a recent meeting of the mayors, one topic that has gained momentum is to build a hydroelectric plant at the base of the Ridgway Dam.
The idea has been discussed for decades, Risch said, but may become a reality since the Bureau of Reclamation has nearly completed a feasibility study for placing a plant at the base of the earthen dam. The piping for the plant is already in place, as part of the dam’s original design. The power plant would generate about two megawatts of power, which Risch said “would pretty much cover Ouray’s needs.”
The region’s mayors joined forces after the Governor’s Energy Office began encouraging government entities to work together in applying for grants, Risch said.
“It seemed natural to work together since we’re small mountain communities that depend on tourism,” he said. “We could have been part of a larger group with Montrose County, but that would dilute our influence and we don’t have the same common goals.”
Monday’s meeting was technically two council meetings, with the first part conducted by the outgoing council and the second half run by newly-elected councilmembers.
Plaques of appreciation were given to outgoing councilmembers Sandy Stuller and Robert Stoufer. Judge David Westfall then administered the oath of office to newly elected councilmembers Ben DeGear and Gary Hansen, and Risch was sworn in to serve his second term as mayor.
In other action, the new city council held a second public hearing for a proposed 10 percent increase in city water rates. The new rates will raise the current average household monthly rate from $13.44 per month to $14.78 per month. The council also approved its annual contract with the Ouray Chamber Resort Association for $163,000. Chamber board president Karen Avery said the chamber’s new visitor’s guide will be distributed by Dec. 20.