Water rate hike up for approval

Hayden council to consider second reading of ordinance today

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What: Hayden Town Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Hayden Town Hall, 178 W. Jefferson Ave.

Call: 276-3741

— Water rates in Hayden will increase if the Town Council approves the second reading of the water base rate ordinance at tonight's meeting.

The Town Council approved the first reading earlier this month. A public hearing will precede the second reading. If it's approved, the monthly rates will increase by $3.05 to $19, which is a 19 percent increase. The senior rates would increase $1.83 per month to $11.40.

The ordinance also would increase the tap fees by 25 percent, from $3,800 to $4,800 for water and $1,900 to $2,400 for sewer.

Town Manager Russ Martin said the water rates don't generate enough revenue to cover their costs, which enterprise funds are supposed to do. The water and sewer systems' budget is separate from the town's general fund.

He said raising rates would generate about $25,000 to $30,000 a year. And along with the tap fee increase, the hike would help eliminate a $75,000 annual deficit in the town's water fund.

"The gap is so wide right now, it's not sustainable," Martin said. "We have to find some ways to close that gap."

Martin said he thought the $3.05 monthly increase was reasonable but said more rate increases could follow. He added that during an abnormal year with high rainfall, such as this year, residents used less water, which meant they paid for less water.

Council member Jim Haskins said it's important to make the distinction between the rate and tap fee increase and water loss in the town's system.

"Those issues have morphed into one, and they're not," he said. "They're separate issues."

The town could be losing close to 30 percent of its water each year, according to reports from city staff members. But Martin has said that apparent loss might stem from inaccurate measurements of water flow at the plant.

Haskins said he doesn't think the water loss is as severe as it appears. But even if it is losing water, he said, the town still isn't generating enough revenue for the water fund to support itself.

"Regardless, it does not address the issue that it costs us a lot of money to produce water," he said. "The way we've set up the water and sewer, they're supposed to pay for themselves, and we're not even close without these fee increases. We've had to borrow money from general fund."

He said whether the town covers costs by increasing rates or borrowing money from the general fund, it's still using taxpayer dollars.

Haskins said he hasn't heard from Hayden residents about the proposed fee increases, and only one member of the community attended the last meeting.

The ordinance also would require that residents fix a broken water meter 60 days after receiving written notice. The town could shut off their water if that repair wasn't made in 120 days.

Also at tonight's meeting, the Town Council will hold a public hearing and decide whether to approve the second reading of the winter parking and street obstruction and encroachments ordinance.

Haskins said the issue was identified by public works employees, who noticed that after they plowed, some residents shoveled snow into the streets.

He said that snow would freeze, which created problems for drivers. Hopefully this ordinance would take care of that problem, Haskins said.

The Town Council also will make a decision tonight on Creek View Grill's change of manager, to Phillip Davis from Steven Chamberlain and corporation EPIC's Inc. Council members also will consider renewing its liquor license, which expires Nov. 3.

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