Paonia water, sewer services will be on Dec. 13 agenda

By Tamie Meck


The Town of Paonia's proposed new water and sewer ordinances, along with resolutions for water and sewer rate increases, will be on the Dec. 13 agenda. After discovering inconsistencies in language and definitions between the current and proposed ordinances at the Nov. 22 meeting, as well as confusion as to which version of the water ordinance was the most recent, trustees voted to table all four agenda items.

The water and sewer ordinances, which contain policies pertaining to town services, have historically also included water rates. Trustees have already voted to allow the rates to be adopted by resolution, which would be formalized by passage of the new ordinances.

After finding inconsistencies between the two versions of the water ordinance it was determined that town attorney David Marek was working from the 2016 version, Ordinance No. 2016-01, while others were reading the 2015 version. When adopted, the most recent version will replace both of those versions and bring the town code up to date, said Marek.

Also of concern is that passage of the draft water and sewer ordinances are tied to passage of the proposed rate increases for 2017, which will need to be included in the draft 2016 budget. The draft budget is also scheduled for a vote on Dec. 13, noted Mayor Charles Stewart.

If the board can't get the items approved on Dec. 13, interim town manager Dan Dean said there are a number of ways to address the dilemma, including amending the budget early in 2017 by increasing revenues in the water and sewer funds. The board could also pass rate changes under the emergency clause at a later date and make them retroactively effective, or adopt the new rates beginning in February and simply miss out on a month of additional revenue.

Following the motion to approve the draft ordinance and the discovery of the inconsistencies, trustee Bill Brunner motioned to amend the original motion to table discussion until a "strike and underline" version of the draft can be distributed to the board. That way, he said, everyone will know they're working from the same document.

Missing from the draft is a moratorium on sales of out of town water taps and a clause that home businesses won't be charged double rates. In addition, Mayor Pro Tem David Bradford noted the omission of the town's ability to restrict water usage in the event of a drought. The ordinance is one the town will have on the books for the foreseeable future, said Bradford. "I think not having the part about the restricted water uses is problematic."

"I think there's some work to be done to make this into a really good water ordinance that's consistent and fair," said Brunner.

Following a tie vote to table the water ordinance to Dec. 13, with trustees Bill Bear, Bradford and Karen Budinger voting nay, Mayor Stewart cast the tie-breaking vote. "I'm not hearing with any clarity that we are looking at the last passed version" of the ordinance, said Stewart. Because of that, "I don't think it makes sense to move forward."