The Cedaredge town trustees are looking at new rate structures for both sewer and water utilities.
New rates are expected to be acted on at the town board's Jan. 17 regular meeting, but only after an official public meeting on Jan. 10.
There, trustees hope to get public feedback on two new rate schemes that would affect both water and sewer charges. The new rates would also include special rates that would go into effect during periods of declared drought.
During a four-hour-long work session on Nov. 29, the trustees roughed out plans for the two revised rate schemes, plus the contingency drought rates.
The special public hearing on the proposed new rates will take place prior to the trustees' Jan. 10 work session. The town board hopes to get input on the rate schemes from residents. The new rate schedule is then likely to come up for a vote at the board's Jan. 17 regular meeting.
During the long, Nov. 29 work session, trustees wrestled with ways to adjust water and sewer rates with an eye towards a scheme that would be "revenue neutral" in the water utility. In other words, increases in some water rates would be offset by decreases in others, and there would be no increase in the total amount of money flowing into the water utility.
Also, the proposed rate structures would provide for accumulating funds to help pay for a new $3.6 million sewer treatment plant.
Water usage figures for the last year show that 20 percent of the town's customers are using 50 percent of the treated water produced. Because of the town's rate structure, the cost per gallon for high-end users of up to 100,000 gallons per month or more is very low. Conversely, low-volume water customers pay a comparatively high rate per gallon, trustees concluded.
Consequently, the administration and trustees say they want to craft a new rate schedule which lowers the minimum monthly charge for low-volume users and raises per-gallon charges for high-volume users.
Following a lengthy discussion of the concept, Trustee Larry Smith said, "Shifting the cost burden from low to high users (is something) we all agree on."
Trustee Gene Welch said, "We need to swing the (cost) weight from low users to high users."
Also, under the proposed new rate schedules, all water/sewer customers will see an additional sewer charge of either $6 or $8. That means water customers who see a reduction in their monthly water minimum charges won't see an overall reduction in their combined sewer/water bills each month at the minimum use levels.
The additional sewer charge will be used to begin building an account for use as seed money and grant match funding for the proposed $3.6 million sewer treatment plant.
The need to begin saving money for the sewer plant project, combined with the finding that 20 percent of the town's water users consume 50 percent of the treated water, were key factors in the trustees' decision to endorse the new rates.
Cedaredge is classified economically as a "disadvantaged community," meaning that zero-interest loans may be available. Officials also hope that the Environmental Protection Agency can become a source of funding for the new sewer plant. That is because EPA regulations are contributing to the need for a new plant in a new location.
Other possible sources of funding are principal forgiveness loans, and special deals on loan rates and terms.
Town officials say they intend to shop around for every possibility of funding help as they look for money to build a new treatment plant.
The additional feature of including a drought-triggered water charge in the new rate schedules is considered as a conservation measure to be used in response to drought conditions. "This is a conservation issue," said Mayor Pat Means at a recent work session.
The trustees adopted a drought response plan in September. The plan is intended as a response to various levels of drought conditions in the local area. It defines levels of drought conditions and the town's response to them. It focuses heavily on conservation measures and includes actions that would be taken at the municipal golf course to conserve water in drought conditions.
The decision on what point in the town's drought response plan to impose higher, conservation water rates will be made by the town board. Public Works director Dave Smith, author of the drought response plan, offered his view on the subject at the trustees Dec. 13 regular meeting.
His recommendation was that drought conservation water rates be triggered at Stage II drought conditions. The town board would declare a Stage II drought based on various local indicators including the following ones:
• Drought impacts to local ag;
• Less than 50 percent of average snowpack achieved in the local area;
• Park Reservoir does not fill;
• Surface Creek appropriations for the irrigation season begin at less than 60 percent.blog comments powered by Disqus