With the arrival of our summer water and sewer bills, it is important to understand why Durango families pay some of the highest rates in the state.
The city recently hired a consultant who suggested our water rates must be raised again. The consultant ignored that in 2018, the City collected $8 million from the citizens and spent only $5 million to operate the water system. The $3 million surplus went into a poorly managed savings account that totals approximately $18 million.
No plan exists detailing how this money will be spent. Sometimes the city says it is for deferred maintenance and sometimes the city says it is for a new potable water treatment plant. We haven’t voted to build a water treatment plant; we voted to build the Santa Rita sewer treatment plant.
Speaking of the sewer plant, it’s inequitable that residents living here year-round, particularly families, must pick up most of the tab. Many high-income and part-time residents have $30 sewer bills whereas families often pay triple that amount. Even worse, some disenfranchised county residents connected to city sewer pay over $150 per month. The citizens of Durango voted for the sewer plant debt; we should all shoulder the burden of that decision.
City staff is ardently defending utility rates, paying the consultant $75,000 to report rates are too low.
Since staff supervised the consultant, the conclusions are not surprising.
Only an effort by an informed citizenry and council can lead us to fair and reasonable rates.