The Dolores town manager has proposed raising water and sewer rates for residents and businesses to fund maintenance costs and system upgrades.
At the Jan. 27 Town Board meeting, interim Town Manager Ken Charles and staff members recommended increasing the water rate by $5 a month, or 19.3%. Under the plan, the rate would rise to $30.84 per month, up from $25.84. The sewer rate would rise $2.27, to $30.93, a 7.9% increase.
In addition, staff recommended increasing monthly water bills by $1 each year from 2021 through 2024 to build up water fund reserves for future infrastructure projects.
The increase would help finance a $585,000 project to replace 50-year-old water lines beneath Colorado Highway 145. Nine deteriorating lines need to be replaced before the Colorado Department of Transportation repaves the highway in 2021.
To help pay for the project, the town has applied for a $292,630 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, with an award decision expected in March. To cover the 100% grant match, the town would pull from reserves and take out a low interest loan, with payments covered by the monthly $5 water rate increase.
The town has paid engineering company SGM $54,231 to move forward with final project designs.
Charles said the sewer fund is operating in a deficit, with annual operating and maintenance costs exceeding annual revenues. The situation requires a drawdown of reserves, which would leave no money for capital projects.
The $2.27 sewer increase would create a break-even fund in the sewer budget, Charles said. The board was asked to approve a higher rate to build up reserves for future capital needs at the sewer plant.
The water and sewer rates were last increased in 2015, 2009 and 2006.
“Operations and maintenance expenses have risen since the last rate change,” Charles said. “The increase is important because it will allow the town to begin building up the reserves for additional projects.”
A master plan conducted by an engineering firm in 2018 indicated the aging water and sewer plants would require $1.6 million in upgrades in the next five to 10 years.
Discussion and decisions about the water and sewer rate increase proposals will be addressed at upcoming meetings.