Utility increase hits Oak Creek | SteamboatToday.com

Utility increase hits Oak Creek

Melinda Dudley

Oak Creek residents soon could feel the pinch of increased water and sewer rates. Trash service and electric rates also could be headed up.

The Oak Creek Town Board will use its meeting tonight to discuss increasing the town’s utility rates as a result of increased operating costs and the need to build reserves.

Water and sewer rates are poised to go up an undefined amount as the Town Board tries to figure out how to pay for trained plant operators within the confines of its budget. The town is falling victim to what Mayor J. Elliott described as an “unfunded mandate” from the state to hire a B-licensed operator for its plants, which will require increasing rates, he said.

Residential customers in Oak Creek pay a flat fee of $27 a month for water and $28 for sewer. Rates for nonresidential uses, including schools, the cemetery and different types of businesses, are tiered depending on usage, Town Clerk Karen Halterman said.

The Town Board has stated its commitment to passing a balanced budget for 2009, which historically hasn’t always been the case. In October 2007, facing a $228,000 budget deficit, the Town Board opted to transfer $250,000 from Oak Creek’s electric fund to make up the difference.

“We need to start rebuilding our reserve funds in case something big happens,” Elliott said.

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Rebuilding the town’s reserves for its enterprise funds is critical for the future of the town’s utilities, Elliott said. Without putting money into its coffers year by year, Oak Creek could be unprepared for significant repairs to the system, he said.

The Town Board also will discuss electric rate increases and hear a presentation from Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska’s Billy Cutsor. MEAN, the town’s electricity supplier, recently conducted a rate study and outlined future infrastructure and maintenance needs for the town’s electric utility.

Oak Creek’s current electric rate is 0.085 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Residential trash rates, currently $17 a month, also could increase. Figures from Old West Sanitation, with whom the town contracts, indicate residential rates will have to go up about $2 a month, Elliott said.

Some of the town’s utility rates have remained stagnant for a decade or more, and residents and business owners probably won’t be thrilled they’re going up now, Elliott said.

“We’re probably going to have some static about raising the rates,” Elliott said. “We should’ve been doing it gradually, but we didn’t.”

Also at tonight’s meeting:

– The Town Board will review an ordinance reinstating liquor server training requirements. In October, the board decided to reinstate a former law requiring alcohol servers at Oak Creek’s bars and restaurants to complete the Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, course, and be recertified every three years. The TIPS requirement was repealed by a former Town Board in 2006.

– Conduct a second reading for an ordinance prohibiting the use of the town’s treated water to fill tanks for off-site use. The water ordinance, which prohibits the filling of truck-mounted tanks and establishing fines for doing so, is aimed at preventing contamination of the municipal water supply. It was determined to be a safety necessity earlier this year after a widespread salmonella outbreak in Alamosa.

– Conduct a hearing considering the renewal of the Elk’s Tavern’s liquor license.

– Hear a presentation from Erin Murphy of Partners in Routt County; Guy Patterson on the topic of water meters; and Noreen Moore about gathering input for a regional economic strategic plan.

– To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com