Fowler Board of Trustees approved the payment of $10,000 to Black Hills Energy at Monday's Board of Trustees meeting, for the installation of a three-phase transformer for the town's water treatment facility.

The approval followed a heated discussion about why the payment was necessary.

Mayor Nathan Shultz said at Monday's meeting that the transformer would have brought the water treatment facility to functionality if the Town of Fowler had received the correct pumps required to operate it.

The water treatment facility project began in 2014 after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reclassified Fowler's wells as 'under the influence of surface water,' Town Clerk and Administrator Kelly Lotrich told the Fowler Tribune. Following the reclassification, CDPHE ordered the town to install a new water filtration system.

Five years later and the treatment facility is nearly complete.

The city acquired the three-phase transformer with an understanding between Eric Jenkins, water engineer with Imeg Corporation, and Main Electric that Main Electric would purchase it and install it, said Kelly Lotrich.

However, according to Shultz, Main Electric denied that the transformer's purchase or installation was required of them by the contract.

"They determined that (Jenkins) misread the contract and we had to purchase it separately. That's what we agreed to do last month," said Shultz.

"Last month we had Eric meet with Main Electric about the contract because our engineer's telling us this was in the contract (while) the electrical guys were saying 'No, it's not.' So we directed Eric to have a meeting with him," said Kelly Lotrich. "He met with Main Electric and the electrical engineer, and the electrical engineer and Main Electric both said in their 40 years combined experience, the transformer has never been in a contract, that that's always been the municipality's responsibility."

Shultz said that Fowler agreed to purchase the transformer last month. Trustee Tracy Nelson expressed frustration with Jenkins for misunderstanding the contract with Main Electric.

"So, here we sit again. Eric messed up, and he puts it back to us to pay for it," said Nelson.

When Shultz called for a motion on the approval of the payment, Trustee Andy Lotrich said that paying Black Hills for installing the transformer was the only way to complete the water treatment project.

"Well, with this one I am absolutely torn," said Andy Lotrich. "I know that the project has to move forward because previous council left us in no other predicament except to try to get this damn thing done.

"However, luckily, we have a new city administrator and treasurer who are smart enough to allocate and set aside the funds to be able to pay for engineering disasters," Andy Lotrich continued. "Because of that, and only that, do I feel comfortable moving forward and paying Black Hills, because we have to get this albatross off of our backs so we can get moving forward as a town and hopefully never, ever have the idiots who put us into this position, ever have any type of controlling power again. Therefore, I make a motion to pay Black Hills."

Nelson initially declined to second Andy Lotrich's motion to approve the payment to Black Hills Energy. Trustee Jonathan Buford abstained altogether because he is employed by Black Hills.

With no second, Shultz declared the motion dead and moved on to other agenda items.

But near the end of the meeting, Shultz gave trustees another opportunity to move for the approval of the $10,000 payment.

"I would like to recall the tabled issue, Black Hills three-phase transformer. I once again open the floor to a motion," said Shultz.

"As I make my motion I would just like to remind the other trustees that by not approving this, we put more money in Eric's pocket," said Andy Lotrich. "A vote on this reduces the amount of money in Eric's pocket. If we do not pay Black Hills, we then are basically paying Eric for nothing. Therefore, I do not want to pay that SOB any more money. I therefore move that we pay Black Hills."

Nelson asked how Andy Lotrich knows that by paying Black Hills Energy they will avoid paying Jenkins of Imeg in the future.

"We paid (Jenkins) already to negotiate to find out if we needed this transformer," said Shultz.

"He's the engineer on record for the project," continued Shultz. "He's the only person legally allowed to sign off on this. The only way to get out of this relationship is to finish the project."

Nelson then asked if the $10,000 payment would be the last dime the town has to spend on the water treatment project.

Shultz responded that Nelson's statement was inaccurate; the payment would only get Fowler through the current phase.

"This phase?" asked Nelson. "How many more phases do we have? Wasn't he supposed to submit that to us, what the timeline was?"

Shultz said the project is scheduled to be completed in June.

Nelson ultimately seconded Lotrich's motion to approve the payment of $10,000 to Black Hills Energy but voted against it.

Shultz, Andy Lotrich and Shawn Swope voted to approve the measure; Buford again abstained entirely due to his relationship with Black Hills Energy. Trustee Rory Carnes was absent.

cburney@ljtdmail.com