Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Steamboat Springs With little discussion, the City Council took the first step in increasing water rates Tuesday night.
In a 7-0 vote, the council approved the first reading on an ordinance that will increase water rates by 1 percent for the average residential user. The raise will occur on Jan. 1, 2003, and mark the first time water rates have been increased since 1995.
The approved rate change will increase the water bill by 30 cents for the average household using 7,000 gallons of water per month. The bill would increase from $33.15 to $33.45.
The proposed rate change would bring in an additional $115,000 per year for the city, which would ensure the city is covering the operating costs of the water and sewer system over the next five years.
The rate hike had been proposed more than eight months ago, but the council had tabled the increase until after the November election, when voters did not approve a consolidation agreement between the city and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District.
The city had hoped a voter-approved consolidation would reduce operating and capital costs and hold off the pending rate hike.
"It is unfortunate that we have to do this," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said. "But I hope we can through consolidation, as soon as possible and through a process everyone is comfortable with, have the ability to hold the line (on rates) in the future."
Just days after the question to consolidate failed at the polls, the city voted to ask Mount Werner Water to continue negotiations.
City Council President Kathy Connell said at Tuesday night's meeting that last week the city sent Mount Werner Water a letter asking to continue negotiations. The Mount Werner Water Board has yet to meet and respond to the letter.
Connell said the three members the council had originally appointed to serve on the proposed water authority board, Paul Stettner, Nancy Mayer and Bill Martin, had agreed to be part of a focus group for this round of negotiations.
In the days leading up to the election, council members had warned that if the consolidation agreement failed at the polls, a rate hike would follow.
But the rate change the council approved Tuesday night would not necessarily mean an increase for everyone. Because the flat monthly charge for residential users actually went down from $12.35 to $9.50, those using 3,000 gallons or less would see a 5.2 percent decrease in their water bill.
The impact of the rate change is felt most by households that use the most water. For households using 15,000 gallons or more, the water bills will have a 10 percent increase, going from $43.20 to $47.85.
For commercial properties, the monthly charge will drop from $17.20 to $12.30. But the volume charge per thousands of gallons would increase from $1.85 to $2.65.
Arianthe Stettner noted Steamboat Springs is not the only Colorado community to pass an increase in water rates. She said although for different reasons, Aurora, Denver and Fort Collins have also increased their water rates.