Durango City Council discussed proposed changes to water and sewer rates for almost two hours Tuesday night without making a final decision, after staff suggested fees for each be raised to address infrastructure needs.
Water and sewer customers within the city of Durango have paid more for the same utility service almost every year for the past five years. In 2014, City Council increased fees after 25 years without rate increases to pay for deferred maintenance, infrastructure improvements and repair projects.
City councilors Tuesday recognized the burden water and sewer rate increases have on the cost of living in an already expensive part of the country and talked late into the evening about the most fair, equitable and reasonable way to address infrastructure needs.
The proposals to City Council suggest increasing water revenue by 2% each year for the next five years and sewer revenue by 3% annually over the same period. A new rate structure for customers for both water and sewer could raise or lower rates depending on usage, location and purpose, whether residential or commercial.
The proposed change to the sewer rate structure would reduce the doubled base rate for city wastewater customers outside of city limits to 1.15 times the proposed in-city rate. Right now, the sewer usage rates for people outside the city are double what people inside the city pay – the new usage rates under the proposed fee structure are identical.
The council directed staff to prepare a draft of an ordinance to increase sewer rates and change the fee structure for presentation Oct. 15. City Council asked for further information about the costs for residents in and out of the city and potentially increasing the base rate to a higher percentage of the revenue stream.
Councilors also continued another hearing to increase water rates to Oct. 1 and sought more information about money appropriated to projects in years past that hasn’t been spent. The proposed water rate increase includes funding for a second water treatment plant at Lake Nighthorse.