The city of Steamboat Springs' water commission is proposing a flat rate for sewer fees, which likely will increase sewer bills for single residents and small familes and decrease payments for large families.
Since January, the water commission has been working to renew a 25-year-old sewer agreement among four water entities that is set to expire Nov. 1. The existing agreement stipulates that three water districts pay the city for treating their sewage. The amount paid to the city is based on the volume of sewage dumped into its sewage system.
Appointed by the City Council, the water commission is composed of four representatives from the city and a representative from each of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, Tree Haus subdivision and the Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District.
Bill Martin, a city representative and chairman of the commission, said the group concluded that the most fair and simple solution to renewing the agreement would be for the city to charge a flat rate for each household or business that uses its wastewater treatment plant. The city would bill the individual water districts on a per-unit basis.
The proposed flat rate would take into account the average amount of sewage coming from each household. It also would factor in the costs of the treatment plant, administration and maintenance to the main sewer lines.
Under the proposal, each district would add to the city's flat rate its own fees for the costs of maintaining its individual systems.
"We came to the initial conclusion that the flat rate for everyone is going to be the fairest," Martin said.
By incorporating into the flat rate the average amount of sewage households discharge, Martin said single residents and smaller families could see an increase in their sewer bills and larger families would see a decrease.
"A single person would pay more than they probably did before, a family of four may be at the break-even point, a large family is going to pay less," Martin said.
Based on recommendations from a city-hired water consultant, water commission officials are suggesting the city's flat rate be $6.77 a month. Martin said the suggested figure could change after a meeting Monday. The districts then would add an additional fee for their sewer costs. Those fees would differ from district to district.
Martin said the flat rate would be easiest for the city to administer, allowing them to avoid calculating sewer usage off water usage or the size of a house. Homes do not have meters to monitor the amount of sewage that goes into the city's system.
Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District officials have some concerns with the proposal. Manager Bob Stoddard said the district would have preferred the city use a hybrid rate structure in which the city would charge a base rate for infrastructure costs and an additional fee for the volume of sewage used.
"The hybrid is the more equitable approach for the customers. The more you use, the more you pay," Stoddard said.
He also noted it would encourage conservation. The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District currently charges its customers a flat rate, but Stoddard said it has been years since the district has evaluated that system.
Martin said part of the attraction of the flat rate stemmed from the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District's system. The many hotels and nightly rental condos that are not always used in the Mount Werner District are charged the same monthly rate as a residential home that is continuously occupied.
Even though lodging units might not discharge as much sewage as full-time residences, Martin said the treatment plant was built so it could accommodate the amount of sewage if the rooms were 100 percent full. The flat rate, as opposed to a rate based on volume, helps cover those costs.
"It has to be sized for the few days around spring break when everything is full," Martin said.
Stoddard said his district also has concerns about the city's charge for overhead that is incorporated into the flat rate. Board members think that if the city wants to charge Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District for the overhead costs of using the wastewater treatment plant, the city should be charged for the overhead costs of using the district's water treatment plant.
Martin said that with the exception of John Fetcher, the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District representative, the water commission is in favor of the flat-rate recommendation.
In other business: The council will review the preapplication plans for the Bud Werner Memorial Library expansion. The library board is proposing a two-story, 20,000 square-foot addition to the library building at the corner of 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue.
-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com