An announced intention to move the town into a Stage II drought response drew a crowd of 50 citizens to last week's regular meeting of the Cedaredge Board of Trustees. Citizens had received a postcard from the town announcing new temporary "financial incentives" to encourage water conservation. Under Stage II measures, temporary water rate increases and restricted times for outdoor watering will go into effect this month. The sale and use of fireworks are also banned.
Several people signed up to address the trustees during constituent time. Among those commenting were Gretchen Atkinson, Barb Klein, Shirley Bauer, Doris McGuire, Jim Leser, Bob Wear, Bob Page, Cliff Brave, Carol Kern, Ginny Warner, David Craig, Michael Meskel, Debbie Griffith, Peggy Baxter and Norma Miller.
Some constituents wanted assurances from the trustees that the measures were indeed temporary and others questioned the fairness of temporary rate increases for multi-unit dwellings. Out-of-town water users objected to their proposed rate increases verses increases proposed for in-town customers. Other citizens suggested that the rate increases were evidence that the town was seeking revenue.
The trustees responded that the resolution declaring the increases specifically states that Stage II will "remain in effect until November 1, 2018, unless rescinded by (subsequent) resolution." As for multi-unit dwellings, Mayor Gene Welch stated that the resolution makes provision for such users and that he and Greg Brinck, town administrator, are continuing to discuss how to deal with special circumstances presented by multi-units. The town is reaching out to multi-unit users and the mayor offered to meet with representatives of multi-unit accounts as needed.
The trustees noted that out-of-town rates differ from in-town rates because those dwelling outside city limits do not pay town property taxes which support town infrastructure including water treatment. Some out-of-town constituents responded that they pay more for water but do not receive the same level of waterline services as in-town users when it comes to repairs and maintenance.
As for the idea that the town will make money from the increased rates, the trustees responded that the resolution is not being enacted to produce revenue. "This is a drought situation plain and simple," said Mayor Welch. "This action has nothing to do with revenue. The temporary rate increases are put in place specifically as a financial incentive to influence citizens to conserve water."
The trustees were asked if they had considered alternative methods of encouraging conversation such as educating the public to wise water use or setting up a system to allow residents to water on alternating days depending on their addresses. Trustees responded that they have been including water conservation guidelines in the monthly town newsletter distributed with water/sewer bills since mid-April when they adopted Stage I of the drought response plan. They have also publicized suggestions in the Delta County Independent. And the trustees said they are convinced that alternating days and other such approaches are less likely to conserve water than the temporary rate increases which encourage all citizens to reduce their water use and target high volume users with financial incentives to use less.
The goal of the rate increases is to have the town reduce its water use by 40 percent. Scott Lock, co-director of town public works, told the assembled audience that providing domestic water is the town's number one priority. The winter snow was 41 percent of normal and consequently none of the reservoirs the town relies on are full. Contrary to popular belief, Cedaredge does not draw from every reservoir on Grand Mesa. The town gets its water from a limited number of reservoirs and without immediate conservation measures, water reserves will be in jeopardy.
Citizens who use up to 10,000 gallons monthly will see no increase in cost but they are nevertheless encouraged to reduce their use to less than their usual amount. Any use by single-dwelling users above 10,000 gallons is subject to a higher rate per 1,000 gallons. Multi-unit dwellings are subject to a different set of rates. Businesses such as the local laundromat and carwash that are dependent upon potable water to provide their services will not be subject to increased rates.
Following constituent input, the trustees voted to adopt Resolution No. 15-2018, Stage II Drought Emergency and Response Plan Declaration. The resolution sets the rates shown in the table below. It also includes the following provisions:
• Prohibit outdoor watering between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Anyone watering during the prohibited periods can be cited. First offense receives a warning; second offense is a $100 fine; and a third offense receives $200 fine and a summons to municipal court.
• Prohibit the sale and use of fireworks. Anyone selling or using fireworks can be cited. First offense receives a $100 fine; second offense is a $500 fine and a summons to municipal court.