Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Steamboat Springs The City Council appointed three members to the proposed Water Authority Board Tuesday.
Former City Council President Bill Martin will serve a two-year term, Nancy Mayer a three-year term and Paul Stettner a four-year term.
The council made the decision three weeks before residents will be asked to approve the proposed water authority agreement during the Nov. 5 election. The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, which will consolidate with the city to form an authority, will select four members to complete the seven-member board.
The council had postponed the appointments last week after interviewing seven candidates for the three positions.
All three of the appointees told council members during the Oct. 8 interviews they supported consolidation and the rates between the city and Mount Werner Water should eventually be equalized.
Selected to serve the longest term, Paul Stettner is the husband of Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner, who stepped down from the council's decision. Paul Stettner is the vice president of Technical Services at TIC The Industrial Company.
During his interview, Stettner said he had a background in water engineering and construction. Having designed various components to the city's water and sewer system, Stettner said he could offer technical expertise and insight as a board member.
Mayer, selected to serve until 2005, is completing her master's degree on environmental policy with an emphasis on water conservation, land planning and citizen conflict resolution. Mayer was on her town's Citizen Advisory Committee in upstate New York and owns a manufacturing consulting and education company with her husband in Steamboat Springs.
As one of the lead negotiators in the early 1990s' talks with Mount Werner Water, Martin will serve a two-year term on the board. This summer, as the proposed agreement was going through the council, Martin spoke out against it.
During his interview, Martin said the consolidation is a chance to bring the Old Town and mountain areas together and he represented the Old Town constituency that needed to be heard. He also said he would like to see rates equalized within the next five years.
Even before the members were voted on, the proposed water authority agreement came up at Tuesday's meeting as three residents criticized the proposal during public comment.
With numbers in hand, former Council President Kevin Bennett said unoccupied condominiums have allowed Mount Werner Water to subsidize its customers' water rates. Because Mount Werner charges a base rate that includes 2,641 gallons of water per month, Bennett said many condominium owners pay for water they do not use.
And because water is never used in some condominiums, it means less time is spent reading meters.
With 50 percent to 70 percent year-round occupancy in the district, Bennett said between $386,000 and $643,000 is billed to empty units that never use the water. The half-million-dollar subsidy is passed on to customers in the form of lower rates. Bennett said there was nothing wrong in the subsidy, but it could lead to a bigger gap between Mount Werner Water and city rates.
"We have approved hundreds of new units (in the district)," Bennett said. "Each will continue to subsidize rates. The unintended consequence is that condominiums reduce the rates, making it extremely difficult to equalize rates over the years. They have the benefits of those empty units being built."
In the final minutes of Tuesday's meeting, Council President Kathy Connell said those facts are extraneous to the city and Mount Werner Water agreement. She said the district's good business practice of subsidizing customer rates has little to do with forming an authority, which she said would require economic studies for rate changes and takes the politics out of managing water.
"That is in the past. We now know we have the spilled milk we have to clean up," Connell said. "When we were in those negotiations, we knew we were going to have Mount Werner constituents saying 'heck no we are not going to consolidate if it means our rates are going to get higher.'"
Even if the authority is approved in November's election, Mount Werner's customers must pass the agreement this spring.