Oak Creek utility hikes up for approval

Tonight's Town Board meeting will address budget; water, trash, electric rates

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At a glance

- ELECTRIC

Current: $0.085 per kilowatt-hour, with an $8 minimum monthly bill

Proposed: Replace minimum monthly bill with a $6.50 customer charge to cover overhead; increase rates 10 percent in January 2009 to $0.0935 per kilowatt-hour, and another 5.7 percent in January 2010 to $0.0988 per kilowatt-hour

- TRASH (residential customers only)

Current: $17 a month

Proposed: $20 a month

- WATER

Current: $27 a month for residential customers

Proposed: $41 a month for residential customers; $20 reduced rate for senior citizens; $61 for general businesses and restaurants without bars; $92 for grocery stores, motels day cares, and restaurants with bars; $114 for the community center; $1,125 for the Soroco school campus; $137 for the laundromat/car wash; $760 for the cemetery; and $82 for out-of-town residences, unless water meters installed at town limits by June 30; increases to begin January 1

- SEWER

Current: $28 a month for residential customers

Proposed: $42 a month for residential customers; $87 for restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food service establishments; $57 for general businesses; $84 for motels, day cares and the community center; $113 for laundromat/car wash; $450 for the Soroco school campus; and $84 for out-of-town residences; increases to begin April 1

— The Oak Creek Town Board is set to adopt the town's 2009 budget and approve rate hikes for all Oak Creek utilities tonight at the board's final meeting of the year.

Residents who attended a utilities work session last month shared their serious displeasure with the proposed utility rate hikes, calling the increases particularly ill-timed given the faltering economy and Christmas and utility-intensive winter right around the corner.

The Town Board has taken the stance that the proposed increases are unavoidable, and the money is necessary to keep the town's water and sewer plants operating with required certified operators, to maintain the electric infrastructure and to build reserves for future maintenance.

"We know it's not a good time to do it - everybody's hurting," Mayor J. Elliott said. "But we've got to keep everything well-funded."

The proposed increases for 2009 would increase a residential customer's combined water-sewer bill by about 50 percent, from $55 to $83 a month, and boost trash bills by $3 a customer, to $20 a month. Electric rates would go up 10 percent, as recommended in a recent rate study.

The utility increases are included in the proposed 2009 budget, which the Town Board has been going over, line item by line item, since late summer. The Town Board committed to producing a balanced budget for 2009, even as tough economic times have sent Routt County and Yampa diving into their financial reserves.

"All seven of us came to a meeting of the minds," Elliott said. "We knew we had to."

In October 2007, facing a $228,000 budget deficit, the former Town Board opted to transfer $250,000 from Oak Creek's electric fund to make up the difference.

Police funding has been left more or less intact in the 2009 budget. The Oak Creek Police Department functionally disbanded in October, but no decisions have been made as to whether the town will re-establish its own police force or contract with the Routt County Sheriff's Office for future law enforcement services.

The board also will select judges and judging times for Oak Creek's annual holiday lights contest at tonight's meeting, according to Town Clerk Karen Halterman.

Also on tonight's agenda:

- Hearing: Darrell Randall and Beverly Halcomb, land use change of minor impact, establishment of a business, The Fun Bucket

- Presentation: Scott Wedel, request for utility rate changes for car wash and laundromat

- Pete Dupuis plumbing bill

- Intellichoice invoice for police-reporting software annual support and update

- Snow removal for town property, bid review

- Snow removal/snow storage issues (Trustee Greenwood)

- Appointments of representative and alternate to Routt County Communications Board

- Focus group appointments

- Hockey association agreement

- Contract amendment No. 5, EIAF No. 4841 wastewater treatment plant

- Resolution re: Red flag rules

- Staff vacation carryover request

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