Hayden Hayden's leaders moved ahead Thursday on a water rate increase for residents.
The Hayden Town Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would raise base rates 19 percent, to $19 per month for most customers and $11.40 per month for seniors. Usage rates would not change.
Town Manager Russ Martin and some council members drew a distinction between the rate increase and water system losses.
Resident Gordon Dowling said he was frustrated the town would raise rates when it could be losing as much as 30 percent of its water a year, according to analyses.
"This 30 percent kills me," he said.
But Martin said the town's water fund was in debt about $90,000 a year without tap fees. Even if 100 percent of the town's water was accounted for, that debt still would exist, he said.
Martin laid it out this way: The town produces about 100 million gallons of water a year. The production cost - without staff costs, which would be stable regardless of production - is $52,000 a year. A 30 percent water loss would cost the town $15,000 a year, Martin said.
The fund still would be $75,000 in debt. Much of that comes from the $115,000-a-year loan the town is paying on the plant.
As written, the rate increase would produce only $25,000 to $30,000, so the town still would have to cover the rest of gap out of its general fund. The sewer and water systems operate in a separate fund, the enterprise fund.
The ordinance also would increase the cost of tapping into the systems. Plant investment fees, or tap fees, would increase from $3,800 to $4,800 for water and from $1,900 to $2,400 for sewer.
The proposed ordinance also punishes people who refuse to get new meters installed when theirs breaks. Hayden charges those customers the average rate no matter how much water they use. New rules would give people 60 days to arrange to have the meter replaced, or they'd be charged double the average rate.
Council Member Jim Haskins suggested the town get tough and shut off the water after 120 days.
"They're stealing from the town," he said. "To me, it's no different than them coming and taking something off the shelf."
Martin said his staff would add that to the ordinance, which will be up for a public hearing and vote Oct. 15. Council members stressed that they weren't ignoring the water loss issues but couldn't afford to invest thousands into them.
Water plant operators have said it's difficult to get an accurate read on the amount of water leaving the plant because the volume is so high. A new, more accurate meter there could cost at least $50,000. Haskins said he didn't think now was the time for that purchase.
Also at Thursday's meeting:
- Martin told council members that he and Mayor Lorraine Johnson have offered to host next year's Colorado Municipal League district meeting.
- The council scheduled its workshops for next year's budget. They will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29.
- The council OK'd the first reading of an ordinance clarifying what it means to obstruct the street. Residents who shovel snow into the street after plows go through could be warned or cited.
- The council set a Nov. 5 workshop to talk about code enforcement, particularly as it relates to getting people to manage weeds on their property.