Steamboat water rate change prompts questions

Charges increased for town water users

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— Wondering about a higher water bill? You’re not alone.

Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Philo Shelton said Friday that staff in City Hall have been hearing questions lately from residents and ratepayers who are curious about water and sewer charges that are increasing this year.

“Our staff that does the bill collection was starting to get some calls on it,” Shelton said Friday.

Shelton and Bob Litzau, of the city’s Finance Department, issued a reminder this week about water and sewer rate increases that Steamboat Springs City Council approved unanimously in September. Along with increased tap fees for new construction, the fee increases extend through 2013 and will help fund as much as $70 million of water and wastewater improvement projects by the city.

Water and sewer increases for residential and commercial users were effective Jan. 1 and are reflected on February bills. Increases for mixed-use customers — a list that includes about 90 customers, Shelton said — were not effective until Feb. 1 because of a coding error in the initial city ordinance that changed the rates. Those increases will be reflected on March bills.

The new water base charge for residential customers in 2011 is $17.12.

The water base charge for commercial users is $20.50. The sewer base charge is $29.25 for residences and $24.65 for businesses.

Rates will increase incrementally in 2012 and 2013. City officials will update rates and infrastructure costs in 2013.

Detailed water base and volume charges, and sewer base charges, for the next three years, are available with this story at SteamboatToday.com.

Red Oak Consulting, a division of the national environmental engineering firm Mal­colm Pirnie, recommended the rate increases last year after its assessment of Steamboat’s infrastructure needs and costs.

A Red Oak report accounted for volume charges as well as base charges.

The report stated the typical residential water bill — for a single-family home that uses 7,000 gallons of water per month — would increase 14 percent this year, from $28.43 to $32.42.

Monthly wastewater rates would increase 8.8 percent this year, the report stated, from $26.88 to $29.25.

Projects funded by the rate increases are under way.

The city is continuing improvements to the wastewater treatment plant off Twenty­mile Road and preparing for spring and summer projects.

Shelton said the city is pre-qualifying contractors for a sewer main replacement in the alley between Oak and Lincoln streets, from about Seventh to 12th streets, between Butcherknife and Soda creeks. Old, clay pipe in that area needs to be upgraded to PVC pipe, he said.

That work will start in spring.

In summer, when the water table lowers enough after the spring thaw, water line work will occur on 13th Street near the Fairview neighborhood, Shelton said.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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