Steamboat City Council agrees: Try to slow water rate impact |

Steamboat City Council agrees: Try to slow water rate impact

Mike Lawrence

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

— 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.

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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.

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