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Paonia changes course on water rate increases

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After considering public comments regarding proposed hefty increases in water rates at a Nov. 5 special meeting on water, sewer and trash ordinances, the Town of Paonia announced at a Nov. 10 special meeting that the proposed change to the water ordinance will now reflect a $6 across-the-board rate increase. While the Nov. 5 meeting attracted about 70 citizens, most of whom represented out-of-town users and some of the 32 private water companies serviced by the town, a half dozen attended the Nov. 10 meeting, which preceded the regularly scheduled meeting of the board of trustees.

A proposed $100 administrative and services fee for water companies was removed from the draft ordinance in response to public comments at the Nov. 5 meeting.

The new rates will bring the town closer to meeting its debt obligation for loans on recent state-mandated water filtration upgrades at the 2 million-gallon Upper Lamborn Mesa Water Treatment Plant. Under the current rate structure, the town can meet about half of that debt obligation. Town manager Jane Berry has recommended to trustees that the ordinance be passed under an emergency provision. Trustees can decide when to vote on the ordinance, and when the new rates will go into effect.

The rate increase provides an interim measure pending results of a water study, which Berry said would likely be completed no sooner than April or early May. Once the results of the study are known, the town would amend the rates later in the year, if necessary.

Loan payments are currently $197,000 per year. The town is required by law to maintain 110 percent of the coverage of those payments. The town also has an obligation to make payments of $128,00 per year on loans pertaining to state-mandated upgrades to the lower (Clock) water treatment plant.

"Keep in mind the $6 only covers debt service," said trustee David Bradford, who also serves on the town public works committee. The town also needs to address costs for maintenance and depreciation. Past boards have consistently put off addressing those needs until tomorrow, said Bradford. "Tomorrow is here."

The revised water ordinance will raise the per-thousand-gallon usage fees and create a fee system that is more equitable.

Under the proposal, per-thousand-gallon rates for all water users are follows:

0-10,000 gallons $1.75

10,000-20,000 gallons $2.00

20,001-30,000 gallons $3.50

30,001-100,000 gallons $4.50

100,001 or more gallons $5.50

Regarding water tap fees, the cost of a basic residential (3/4-inch) water tap fee remains at $6,000, and in-town commercial tap fees will be $9,790 for a 1-inch service line, up to $156,200 for a 4-inch line. Taps for to water companies will cost $15,000 for a 3/4-inch line, up to $750,000 for an 8-inch line.

Changes to the proposed town trash ordinance reflect increases in monthly costs for weekly pick-up services. Weekly collection of one (1) 33-gallon container will rise from $12 to $15 per month; from $15 to $18 per month for two (2) or three (3) 33-gallon containers; and from $22 to $25 for four (4) or five (5) containers. A $3-per-container fee will be charged for each additional 33-gallon container that exceeds category limits. Additional fees may apply for oversized items.

Weekly Dumpster charges will be $33 per month per two cubic yards Dumpster and $35 for a three-cubic-yard Dumpster.

Rates were considered prior to the announcement that Delta County will raise its landfill fees in 2016 (see Nov. 4 DCI article "Landfill fees are going up in 2016"). Berry noted that the increase are significant enough to raise the town's trash fund expenditures. "That fund was balanced to the penny."

Proposed changed to the sewer ordinance reflect a monthly in-town service charge of $31, up from $26, and an out-of-town rate of $50, up from $44; rates for new in-town connection fees will be $5,000 per unit, up from $3,750, and out of town rates will increase from $7,500 to $10,000.

Draft ordinances are posted on line at townofpaonia.com/news/news-announcements/

Adoption of ordinance changes are necessary for completion and passage of the 2016 budget, noted Berry. "We haven't even talked about the actual budget yet." In October the town adopted a schedule of special meetings to address the budget and associated ordinances, including a special meeting on Nov. 17. The next special meeting, a budget study session, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, proceeded by the regularly scheduled board meeting at 7 p.m. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for the Dec. 8 board meeting. The draft budget is available on the town website under the "Government" heading.

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Paonia, Rate Increases
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