Ignacio town trustees have approved higher sewer and water rates to cover price increases from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, which provides services to the town. The most significant increase, 8.7 percent, is for sewer rates.
The increases, which were approved last week, cover tribal rate increases to the town that took effect in October, plus increases from October 2015 that the town did not pass on previously to customers.
The sewer rate will increase from $68.09 per month for a residential tap to $72.99. Water will increase by 60 cents per 1,000 gallons.
The new rates will appear on December bills.
Interim Town Manager Mark Garcia said the town is being charged for 40 percent of inflow to the tribe’s sewage treatment plant, but the town accounts for only about 20 percent on average. The town sent a letter to the tribe in October about the discrepancy and requested mediation. Town and tribal officials met on Oct. 20, apparently with no resolution.
Garcia said last week there had been no tribal response to the town’s requests.
He cited the town’s service contract with the tribe that says there should be no subsidizing of rates and no price disparities. “We asked for a rate analysis, and there’s none,” he said.
Trustee Tom Atencio wanted the town to install its own devices to measure the flow to the sewer plant.
At the trustees’ meeting, audience member Kasey Correia agreed with Atencio about determining the town’s actual flow. The increase is hurting people on fixed incomes and tenants in her rental properties, she said.
“This is slamming them,” Correia said. “They have to cut back on their medicine, put blankets over their windows. ... Our sewer is off the charts.”
Correia also said, “It makes it really hard to grow your economic base and provide housing. ... At what point do you say let’s entertain (the town installing a) small (treatment) plant to protect the citizens?”
Garcia said that couldn’t happen quickly because of the existing agreements with the tribe.
Trustee Alison deKay said, “I like to control my own stuff. But we have to get the state to agree that we can have a plant. They could say, ‘You have a great plant, so use it.’ If we go off (the tribe’s) systems, there won’t be any cooperation on anything.”
Atencio responded, “I’m not saying let’s do our own sewer plant or water plant. I’m saying let’s gather the information that we can use even at a later date,” such as the size of a sewage treatment plant for the town. “Let’s start on something. We waited for them to give us information. What do we have? Nothing.”
In the public hearing on the rate increases, a man complained that his sewer rate has doubled in four years. “It’s getting out of hand,” he said. “I’m thinking of selling my house.”
Garcia said he’d have information on the cost of three measuring devices for the Dec. 7 board meeting. Trustees also will approve the 2017 budget that night.