Yampa Town Board approves utilities increases

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— Yampa Town Board unanimously approved water and sewer rates increases for the town's utility customers at its meeting Wednesday night.

The changes, which will increase combined water-sewer bills from $46 to $55, were included in the town's 2009 budget, which the Town Board approved with little fanfare at a special meeting Dec. 10. The former base rate for water and sewer in Yampa was $23 each.

The water rate now will be $26, with the base rate including 5,000 gallons a month September through April, and 15,000 gallons a month May through August. Customers will be charged $1.65 for each additional 1,000 gallons used.

The base sewer rate will increase to $29 a month. Water usage of more than 10,000 gallons a month will have an additional fee of $1.80 for each 1,000 gallons above the baseline.

One dollar from each water bill will be earmarked as funds for a new water storage tank for the town, a major infrastructure project still in the early planning stages. The town needs to pinpoint the proposed location for the tank soon, as deadlines for potential grant funds are looming, Town Clerk Janet Ray said Wednesday.

Yampa's lack of an emergency notification system for residents also became a topic of discussion Wednesday, after the town's water became far more chlorinated than usual during Christmas because of a malfunction at the water plant. Many residents reported concern to the town about the taste and smell of the water, though the chlorine levels still were considered safe and fell within state and federal regulations.

On Christmas Eve, a valve at the water plant failed and stuck open, allowing Yampa's water supply to become chlorinated more than four times the town's normal levels, said Eric Berry, the town's public works director. The public works department noticed the problem that morning and shut down the chlorination system until it could be fixed, but high levels persisted for several days until the chlorine concentration decreased.

The water hit its highest chlorine reading Dec. 26, at 2.20 mg/liter, before settling back to a normal level at about 0.57 mg/liter Dec. 29, Berry said.

State and federal regulations allow chlorine levels as high as 4 mg/liter, Berry said. Although the water supply always was safe for use and consumption, the higher chlorination was noticeable to residents, and the sudden change could cause symptoms such as an upset stomach, Berry said.

Town Board members said Wednesday that although the water was fine, the town should have let everyone know it was safe.

"I felt like the community should have been notified," Trustee Arlene Porteus said. "People who tasted it could tell something was wrong with it."

In the event of a true emergency, the town does have reverse-911 capabilities. In past emergencies, such as wildfires, Town Board members have gone door-to-door, Trustee Tom Yackey said.

"It brings up the need to have an emergency plan for the town, which has no decisive way to inform the people," Trustee Karen Tussey said. "Even if it's just posting a notice at the post office and Town Hall, and telling Ken Montgomery."

Yampa Town Board will have a work session at 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss an emergency plan and consider a proposal for individual water metering at the Cordova trailer park.

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