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Million-dollar mouthpiece 

A Denver communications expert has made out quite nicely on Colorado Springs Utilities' water pipeline project.

Paid $1.14 million since 2007, Sigler Communications will receive up to $100,000 more next year for its information-handling role in the Southern Delivery System that's to deliver water to Colorado Springs beginning in 2016.

Spanning more than 50 miles across Pueblo and El Paso counties, the nearly $1 billion project has required interaction with 10 local, state and federal agencies, says Utilities spokesperson Janet Rummel.

"Effective communications with these agencies has been critical for obtaining and maintaining the required approvals to continue moving the project forward," she says in a statement. Utilities has one employee dedicated to telling the SDS story to such agencies, plus media, ratepayers and others; contracting with Sigler, Rummel says, prevents Utilities from having to hire additional employees.

But it's not just information that Sigler provides. Under a contract executed in 2010, Sigler was expected to build and solidify the base of support for SDS, get endorsers' permission to use their names in public materials, and "promote media interaction that positions the project positively." Sigler helped develop and continues to update a website, sdswater.org, as a central clearinghouse for project information for the public and contractors.

The need for outside help with SDS is declining; next year's sum is the smallest since Sigler was paid $46,716 in 2007, the contract's first year. But Rummel adds, "There's always going to be the ongoing component of reaching out to the regulatory agencies." One such example is the realignment of Fountain Creek south of Colorado Springs, to be undertaken in the next year or two.

"We need input from property owners to make sure we're not inadvertently having an impact on their property," Rummel says.

Sigler originally got involved as a subcontractor of the CH2M Hill engineering firm, but later got its own deal. The company has worked on communications around projects including a Superfund cleanup in Leadville, and contamination from the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

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