Budget, utility rates OK'd for Oak Creek

Town Board appoints focus group to assess policing needs

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Oak Creek's utility rate increases

- Electric

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

Approved: 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

Approved: $20 a month

- Water

Current: $27 a month for residential customers

Approved: $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 a year for the cemetery; and $82 a month 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

Approved: $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

— Oak Creek Town Board passed its 2009 budget and rate increases for all town utilities with little discussion at its meeting Thursday night.

The utility increases mean residential customers' combined water-sewer bills will go up about 50 percent - from $55 to $83 a month. Electric rates will increase 10 percent for 2009, and trash bills will increase $3 a customer, to $20 a month.

The town's last rate increases for its utilities went into effect in January 2003. Town officials have maintained that though sizeable, the increases are necessary to keep Oak Creek's water and sewer plants operating with required certified operators, to maintain utility infrastructure and to build reserves for future maintenance.

With months of work to balance the town's 2009 budget out of the way, the Town Board appointed a police focus group, to begin work next month on outlining what the future law enforcement presence in Oak Creek should look like.

Since the Oak Creek Police Department's last officer departed in October, the town has relied on the Routt County Sheriff's Office for emergency services. The focus group will be tasked with making recommendations as to whether Oak Creek should forge a contract for long-term services with the Sheriff's Office or reform its own police department - and what that department should look like.

The Town Board appointed all nine people who submitted letters of interest to serve on the focus group: Soroco High School Principal Dennis Alt, Jonathan Wheby, Bill Auer, Jennifer Coop, Walt and Ann Trout, David Bonfiglio, Lenny Herzog, and Officer Eileen Rossi, who works for the Oak Creek Police Department during the summer season.

Trustee Gerry Greenwood previously was appointed to serve as a liaison to the body once it gets going.

The police focus group will meet with the Town Board for a work session Jan. 15.

Moffat Avenue closed

The Town Board also begrudgingly voted to close Moffat Avenue - the town's longstanding unofficial sledding hill - for the winter.

Trustee Gerry Greenwood - who lives on the affected portion of the street - said the town is creating an "attractive nuisance" by supporting the road closure.

"This issue has been going on for 25 years," Greenwood said. "I've had kids sled off my roof, across my property : there's no stopping kids from doing whatever they want to do."

Greenwood, Trustee Dave Ege and Mayor Pro-Tem Wendy Gustafson ultimately dissented with the vote, but lost out to the rest of board, who took the position that they need to support a designated sledding hill with as few traffic obstacles as possible.

"When we didn't close Moffat : then we see them sledding down Bell and Lincoln (avenues)," Trustee Chuck Wisecup said. "I believe the risk we run of somebody getting injured is greater if we do not close it."

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