The Cedaredge Town Board heard opinions contrary to its own from the public on proposed new rate schedules for water and sewer at a Jan. 10 public hearing.
The board is ready to adopt new rates at its Jan. 17 meeting.
But first, it held the Jan. 10 hearing to get input on two plans being considered. About a dozen people attended to express their views or to observe the proceedings.
Trustees want to use the town's combined sewer/water rates as a vehicle to raise money for a new wastewater treatment plant estimated to cost $3.5 million, not including land to build it on. To help accomplish this, trustees are proposing to add either $6 or $8 per month to monthly sewer charges. Rate payers would be compensated for that increase by a decrease in their monthly minimum charge for water on the combined monthly billings.
Then, to prevent revenue loss to the water utility, per-gallon use rates for high volume users would get hit with hefty increases.
The prospect of those big increases in user rates generated push-back from the public at last Thursday's hearing. Only three trustees (Ray Hanson, Dayton Myers, and Gene Welch) along with the mayor were present for the start of the board's advertised public hearing. A fourth trustee arrived late for the session.
Barbara Cline, speaking for a homeowners' group at the golf course housing development, questioned how the higher rates would affect 18 townhome residents there. She said they share the cost of watering common "open space" around their properties. She described the privately owned open area as "like a public park."
Summer water use for outdoor irrigation at the 18 townhomes exceeds 100,000 gallons per month, trustees had been told at a previous rates work session. That high usage would kick the townhome residents' water use cost well into the trustees' proposed higher rate category.
Cline was advised by Mayor Pat Means to have a meeting with the town administrator and look into the matter.
Another town resident, Bill Miller, raised an objection to either of the two proposed new rate schedules. He said that either one would increase his own residential landscape watering by over $500 a year.
A neighbor of Miller's, Don Pyle, told the trustees that on his three-quarter-acre lot he has trees, flowers, some grass, and a vegetable garden that helps feed three families. He is planning to cut back on flower watering to conserve.
Pyle objected to the trustees' idea of charging users a higher rate on water consumption just because they use more of it than others.
The town's water rate structure allocates the utility's basic infrastructure costs equally among rate payers via the monthly minimum charge. By making some users pay a higher rate for water usage, the town is imposing a "hidden sur tax" on water use, Pyle told the trustees. He noted it is "unfair" to charge some people more for the water they use, and he questioned the constitutionality of discriminating in that manner.
Also, "You will have fewer gardens in town" under the proposed new rates, Pyle told the board.
Two other speakers told trustees that of the two rate plans being proposed, the "Plan A," previously published in the DCI, was the better.
The town's proposed water rate changes would apply to residential rates only, not to commercial ones.
The proposed new rate scheme would also impose new charges for sewer; either $6 per month or $8 per month. The mayor said that in three years the $6 charge will raise $280,000, and the $8 charge would raise $375,00 to help with costs of a new sewer treatment plant, currently estimated to cost $3.5 million without including the price of land to build it on.
The town, in October, concluded an 18-month-long program of raising charges for sewer service by a total of $9 per month. The proposed new monthly sewer charges would come on top of that increase.
The proposed new monthly sewer charges of either $6 or $8 per month are intended to prevent the town having to charge users "$26 per month" to pay for the new treatment plant, a trustee told the DCI.
But two speakers addressing the board at the Jan. 10 work session said that even if the proposed new monthly sewer charges are imposed, the town will end up having to charge users much more. Sewer fees of $40 per month, $50 per month, even up to $90 per month for sewer service could become necessary in Cedaredge to pay for the new treatment plant, they said. The town needs substantial grants or other sources of free money for the project to avoid such high sewer charges.
Trustees therefore have raised the current monthly sewer rates up to the state's average in hopes that the move will qualify the town for needed grants.blog comments powered by Disqus