When new utility-rate hikes kick in this January, county residents will pay double for city water compared with their city neighbors.
“We’re all part of the system, and we’ll all be pitching in. I don’t think we should pitch in at double the rate,” Gary Truax, a resident of Galaxy Drive told the City Council this week.
He will be one of those paying a base rate of about $24 instead of about $12 for service. The rate per 1,000 gallons also will be double for those in the county.
For example, county residents will pay $4.86 for every 1,000 gallons up to 4,000; those in the city will pay $2.43 for the same service.
The city created a four-tiered system to help encourage water conservation and the per-1,000 gallons rate gets more expensive with higher usage.
The rate increases were included in the 2015 budget that was approved by a unanimous vote Dec. 2.
As a result, the average winter city water bill is estimated to rise from $24.23 to $33.13, or about 36.7 percent, said Mary Beth Miles, assistant to the city manager. The average sewer bill will rise from $21.39 to $35.31, an increase of about 65 percent.
Average county water-rate increases would be double at $66.26, and average sewer bills would also be double at $70.62.
Truax and two others voiced concern that there was not much justification for the rate increases in the study provided by a consultant.
“When I looked through the actual number crunching, there was no justification for doubling the rates,” Steve Harris said.
However, some of the infrastructure in the county has not been maintained well over the years, and it is going to be expensive to fix, Utilities Director Steve Salka said.
“We have to spend a lot of money to get that stuff up to snuff,” he said.
County residents who receive city sewer services already pay double compared with those in the city.
“The City Council sought parity with the sewer fund,” said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
In addition, if there was ever a water and sewer emergency, it would have to be paid for out of the city’s general fund, which would be a burden on city residents, LeBlanc said.
The residents who came to speak at Tuesday night’s council meeting are now surrounded by city limits, and some said they felt that it was unfair some of their neighbors may be paying city rates and were connected to the same water mains.
Those who live on Galaxy Drive are not eligible to be annexed because the roads in that neighborhood fail to meet city standards, and the city could not guarantee services would be delivered, said Greg Hoch, director of planning and community development.
Harris will not be lobbying the city further and plans to wait until the next time rates are considered and get involved in the rate study process earlier.
“I think if I had been earlier in the process, I would have a chance to be successful,” he said.
A utility rate calculator will be available for residents to use Jan. 1 at www.durangogov.org/utilities.