New city sewage rates likely

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Steamboat prings City Council members agreed with a consultant's recommendation to charge all residential homes a flat rate for treating sewage.

Consultant Rick Giardina recommended that a $6.77 treatment charge be applied to all sewage bills in the city of Steamboat Springs, the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the Tree Haus subdivision and the Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District.

The city hired Giardina to do a rate study, which was spurred by the expiring agreement among the city and the three other water and sewer entities. The 25-year-old sewer agreement, which will end Nov. 1, stipulated that the three water entities pay the city for treating their sewage. The amount was based on the amount of sewage dumped into the city's system.

Critics have said the agreement was not fair because only city residents pay for the maintenance of the sewage treatment plant and the main pipeline that collects the sewage.

The flat rate for residential homes takes into account those maintenance costs, and it also means that the city will not have to bill customers based on the gallons of water used. A flat rate also ensures that owners of empty residential units pay for their share of maintenance costs.

"Every customer pays the same rate for treatment costs and interceptor costs. Everyone pays $6.77 for treatment. That is our overall intent," Giardina said.

Additional charges will be added to the $6.77 cost depending on each water entity's different maintenance, administration and collection costs.

When all costs are factored into the bill, the consultant recommended that the city charge $16.37 a month to its residents. The other municipalities would have to factor in their additional fees.

Giardina said the rate change shouldn't cause any changes in the sewer bill for the average residential home. Residences that discharge less than 5,000 gallons of sewage a month would see an increase in their bills, but Giardina said the average customer uses between 6,000 and 9,000 gallons of sewage a month. Commercial buildings will continue to be billed on gallons used, and businesses will see an across-the-board increase in their bills. The commercial increase is on a sliding scale and will be greater for business that produce more sewage.

Businesses that discharge 10,000 gallons of sewage a month would see a 59 percent increase, and those discharging 30,000 gallons of sewage a month would see an 81 percent increase.

The city does not have sewer meters but calculates commercial use by using the average winter consumption per thousand gallons of water.

Giardina said that if its estimates are correct, the city should not have to re-evaluate its rate structure for five to six years.

City Council members said they agreed with the recommended sewer rates, but they have to be approved in the form of an ordinance before going into effect.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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