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Paonia okays sewer rate hike

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Paonia sewer customers will see an increase in their monthly bills after trustees unanimously approved a $3 monthly increase in both in-town and out-of-town rates. The in-town base rate will increase from $31 to $34 per month, and out-of-town sewer accounts will increase from $50 to $53 per month.

Ahead of the vote, trustees approved Ordinance 2016-08, which amends certain sections of the 2015 emergency sewer ordinance to allow for establishing new rates by ordinance and the addition of sewer tap standby fees. The ordinance and proposed rate increase were first brought before the board last November.

Trustee Bill Bear, who serves on the town's public works, utilities and facilities committee, called the rate increase "necessary" since the current system isn't paying its own way. The standby fee is also necessary, said Bear, and will allow town staff to better track changes in ownership of existing sewer taps currently not in service.

Standby fees will affect 30-35 customers. The intent is to "capture some costs while not charging for operational costs," said town administrator Ken Knight. "This is a very standard fee that most communities have." A water tap standby fee already exists in the town's water ordinance.

Fees collected for sewer services and trash collection go into the sanitation fund. "But when you look at the sewer fund alone it's not generating enough revenue to pay its own expenses," said Knight. Last year the fund came up about $35,000 to $40,000 short and was subsidized by trash fees.

The increase is expected to generate approximately $36,000 annually. Along with the standby fees, estimated to bring in an additional $9,300, the changes should generate enough to keep the sewer system operating and in compliance with state and federal regulations, said Knight.

The sale of three properties related to the sewer fund are currently pending. Town treasurer Ross King said the sales are moving forward, and that proceeds after associated fees are paid will go to the sewer fund. Several projects need be addressed in the near future, said King. As things stand, if the sales fall through and the town fails to accumulate reserve funds, "We won't have the capital to address these problems and we'll have to go out and borrow the money."

In other business, following a public hearing the board approved a new hotel and restaurant liquor license application for Curiel LLC, doing business as Rio Bravo. The restaurant recently opened at 240 Grand Ave. The license encompasses the restaurant and the exterior patio area and was awarded in time for this Friday's Cinco de Mayo celebration and fundraiser for the Paonia Chamber of Commerce, which will be held on the patio.

Trustees also approved a hotel and restaurant liquor license renewal application for The Living Farm Cafe.

A request for approval of signage at the entrance to the Paonia River Park was granted to the Western Slope Conservation Center. The sign, which will be built and installed by metal artist Ira Houseweart, will also mark the entrance for the Paonia Museum and Bowie School House.

Trustees approved a letter of support for The Nature Connection to be included in its application for a Great Outdoors Colorado Inspire Initiative grant. If awarded, the grant would fund projects to increase access to the outdoors for youth in Delta, Olathe, and the three North Fork communities.

The grant application is due in July, said Anita Evans with TNC. A request for a cash donation for matching funds and consideration of options for providing in-kind services for the projects proposed for the Paonia area were tabled to the June 13 board meeting. That gives the town time consider its options.

Trustees also approved bids $6,420 and $3,585.42, submitted by Delta-based B&B Glass and Window, Inc., for repair and maintenance of the main office doors at Town Hall. B&B Glass will also install new ADA-compliant doors.

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