John Abramski, a meter reader for the city of Steamboat Springs water district, reads meters on Sandhill Circle on Tuesday.

Photo by John F. Russell

John Abramski, a meter reader for the city of Steamboat Springs water district, reads meters on Sandhill Circle on Tuesday.

Steamboat City Council agrees: Try to slow water rate impact

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— Richard Giardina said one message came through strongly Tuesday during discussions about recommended water and sewer rate increases that could affect city users as soon as Jan. 1, 2011.

“I’m hearing loud and clear if we could mitigate, moderate the impact on our customers,” Giardina said to Steamboat Springs City Council members after hearing their feedback in Centennial Hall.

Giardina is a vice president for Red Oak Consulting, based at their Denver office. In a Tuesday meeting that also included unanimous support for a $21 million refinancing package to enable completion of redevelopment work at the base of Steamboat Ski Area next summer, City Council reviewed Red Oak’s recommended, multi-year water and wastewater rate increases for city residents and businesses.

Red Oak’s draft study states that the rate increases through 2019 and higher tap fees for new construction would fund more than $70 million worth of water and wastewater improvement projects, including new infrastructure on the city’s west side and repairs to, or replacements of, aging sewer pipes through Steamboat Springs’ downtown core.

The City Council could conduct the first reading of an ordinance to implement the new water and sewer rates Sept. 7. A second and final reading could occur Sept. 21, to allow implementation of the rates in 2011 to be included in the city’s budget for next year.

City Council members asked Giardina and Red Oak senior consultant Andrew Rheem to explore rate increases that occur as gradually as possible during coming years, to lessen the impact on residents and businesses.

But there is little to no doubt among city staff and council members that the improvements are necessary and that rate increases of some kind are unavoidable.

Burgess Creek Road resident Bill Jameson said solutions to the city’s water and sewer problems long are overdue.

“Prior City Councils haven’t addressed this for years. … Now, we’re in a situation where increases are going to have to be more substantial than if appropriate increases had been implemented along the way,” Jameson said. “I guess it’s time to bite the bullet.”

Also Tuesday, City Council:

■ Directed city staff to prepare documents for the $21 million base area refinancing package, which would pay off the current $17.5 million worth of base area loans and provide additional funds for next year’s work on a public promenade and the daylighting of Burgess Creek.

■ Expressed support for expanded off-leash dog areas at Spring Creek and Rita Valentine parks, with increased enforcement of dog waste removal violations, in a 5-1 vote with City Councilman Walter Magill opposing.

■ Expressed support for ending the city’s tag program for dog owners who learn voice and sight command practices, calling the program an example of excessive governance, in a 4-2 vote with Magill and Councilman Scott Myller opposing .

■ And voted unanimously to allocate $10,000 from the City Council’s contingency fund to support efforts of the Bike Town USA Initiative, with another $4,000 contribution from that fund to be allocated if the initiative raises $4,000 of its own.

Comments

Steve Lewis 4 years ago

As an online reader of the Pilot, I have to say I'm surprised this article on $71 million in proposed spending by the city doesn't make it the webpage's "latest news" list, while three articles on local softball and volleyball standings do.

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years ago

Read the entire page, it's right there bottom left. In fact, none of the featured articles are listed under "latest news." The $71MM sure caught my attention.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

So they tore up Lincoln, replaced bad storm drains, left aging and undersized sewer pipes and covered it all with concrete? Seems to me that by allowing Lincoln Ave to be rebuilt in concrete that they have decided that the infrastructure under the concrete was good enough for at least another 10 years.

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years ago

The following article "... said the city’s sewer upgrades could cost $16 million."

And lewi made the first comment. He's right. It was a painful read but this really hurts.

Scott has a valid point. I guess it's simply a failure to communicate.

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Steve Lewis 4 years ago

I agree with Bill J.'s comment that this is the result of prior council's not looking ahead. I attended the meeting and learned from the discussion that the 05' Council addressed some issues with Mt Werner water district and the 07' Council raised water rates 50%.

As a long time local user, I don't mind contributing more to the true cost of my water and wastewater service. But I went last night to express my concern that my new water fees should not be used for the infrastructure costs of future development. Tap fees are public works' other revenue stream that are supposed to pay for that. Tap fees are also proposed to rise, but they will only pay for about 1/4 of the $71 M.

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years ago

My neighbor, just Jim and his dog, pays the same sewer base charge as my family of four. How is that egalitarian?

Why don't they bill sewer based upon water consumption?

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Steve Lewis 4 years ago

A public works staff report on this proposed rate increase would answer a lot of questions, but there was no staff comment - just the consultant's report. Maybe I've missed something in reading that. I remain concerned I’m subsidizing growth when I read items like “Land acquisition”, “system expansion”, “infiltration gallery expansion”, “water rights firming”, and a “pump station” amount to about $3 million of maintenance to be paid for by my water rates.

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John Fielding 4 years ago

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All fees should be strictly based on use. If that family of four adds a second bathroom, they do not flush more often and so should not be assessed thousands for the improvement. If a tap fee is to be fairly levied it should be based on the number of bedrooms, not bathrooms.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

I believe sewer bill is based upon usage. That they look at water usage during winter months when presumably virtually all water usage flows to sewer and figures that level of water flowing to sewer continues for the summer as well.

Most water/sewer districts bill based upon both a fixed fee and usage charges. The fixed fee is to pay the costs of having the system present if they were to use water and sewer. The usage charges are to encourage conservation and the variable costs of the water/sewer system.

I also think it is wrong for the users of the current system to pay so much for future development. For so much money, it might be more cost effective to work with the big water users on conservation to see if flow can be reduced. It would appear that we want to delay this project until the new concrete on Lincoln is getting old and needing replacement. Removing all of the places where groundwater or storm drains flow into the sewer system should also extend the time before pipe capacity is reached.

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pitpoodle 4 years ago

I would like to see a breakdown of costs intended for future development and projected income from tap fees for development. As a business owner, my water and sewer costs are already high but I will chalk that up to the cost of doing business. I do object to paying more for future development. No thanks.

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years ago

Sewage bill is not based upon usage. I called the City yesterday to find out. I asked "so a house with one person pays the same as a house with twelve people?" "Correct" was the reply.

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Steve Lewis 4 years ago

There is a breakdown of costs in the Rate Study (draft) into "growth related" and "non-growth related" groups. The growth related costs are about 27% of the whole and are to be paid by tap fees. Non-growth related paid by our water/sewer bills.

The breakdowns leave some big line items. Joe Zimmerman at the water dept said the $17 million "collection main replacement" line item refers to old pipe replacement around old town. He said virtually none of that would be upsized. Joe also said the new Lincoln Ave concrete is not over any of this work. The alley between Oak and Lincoln has a sewer main to be replaced early in this schedule.

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Steve Lewis 4 years ago

The Fetcher to West Lincoln Park pipe referred to in Jeff's link above is the "Mt Werner interceptor", which is 50% paid for via tap fees . The Water Master Plan (last page, color coded map of pipelines' % of capacity) shows that pipe needs to be upsized, i.e. upsized to accommodate growth. Joe Z. said that pipe is also near the end of its design life. Mt Werner thought it was installed in the late 70s?

So I guess the 50-50 split of that $6.7 million item seems fair. Mt Werner water said their input to that pipe amounts to about 40% of its capacity at its lower end, after collecting thru town. They contribute tap fees to that pipe.

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Steve Lewis 4 years ago

Unfortunately, grasping the level of fairness in this rate hike took some phone calls. And given the bottom line of $71 million in proposed city spending, the complete void of any verbal or written city staff explanation to the public on these materials and the coming rate hike is very disappointing, even aggravating.

The easy part in the report is the amount we pay: tap fees double soon and over ten years our water/sewer rates do the same, going up 30% in 2 years. This CIP proposal of $71 million has about $2 million in current water and sewer fund reserves. Ouch.

I have one last question. Our water/sewer rates went up 50% in 2008. Did tap fees also go up 50% in 2008?

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pitpoodle 4 years ago

Thanks for the good detective work, Lewi.

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John Fielding 4 years ago

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In many of the other areas I have worked in we have been assessed tap fees based strictly on the size of the line or meter, with a requirement that a certain size be used for each application ie a single family residence 3/4 inch , multi family, small business, small irrigation, 1 inch, and so on. Same was true for sewer taps. Of course we also paid for all the installations of water and sewer mains as well. It seemed simpler and more fair that the count your sinks and toilets approach.

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