Steamboat Springs A proposal to consolidate Mount Werner Water and Sanitation and the city's water and sewer services will come before the City Council in two weeks.
City Council President Kathy Connell announced at the start of Tuesday's council meeting that the negotiating committees from both sides had agreed on terms and are ready to take those terms to their boards for approval. Calling the agreement a landmark, Connell said, the proposal could end five years of negotiations.
The council will see the agreement at its May 21 meeting, but both sides have a list of steps to take before putting the issue before the voters, Connell said.
The Mount Werner district roughly encompasses the area east of Fish Creek Falls. By consolidating the two water entities, costs for capital projects and other shared services could be combined, which could result in lower fees for residents.
"It was, 'What is best for the community? This is community water and what was the most fiscal responsible way to save our citizens money?'" Connell said.
"(The two entities) were more bureaucracy and not something that is needed to get water," she said.
The announcement of the proposal marks the closest the two entities have come since negotiations started in 1996.
Last January talks broke off over a deal that proposed Mount Werner Water share the cost with the city for the $11 million expansion of the wastewater treatment plant. Mount Werner Water did not oppose sharing the cost but disagreed on how much of the sewer operations it could control based on the percent of the debt burden it was willing to carry.
Connell said this time around attitudes changed on both sides of the negations.
"I so deeply believed that if we put personalities aside and got to focus, we really would work things out," Connell said about this round of negations.
After negotiations ended last year, the city decided to take on the $11 million cost of expanding the plant. At the time, the city said that tap fees, not water bills, would increase to finance the cost of the expansion.
The city hired a consultant to evaluate if water and sewer cost could cover the city's operating cost and the capital projects.
The study recommended the monthly water rate bill increase by 2 percent to 5 percent for the average household. Rate increases were also proposed for water and sewer tap fees.
In April, the City Council agreed to postpone an ordinance that could have brought a rate hike to the water bill, a decision Connell said was spurred by the pending agreement with the Mount Werner district.