Glenwood council likely to adopt city water, sewer rate increases |

Glenwood council likely to adopt city water, sewer rate increases

Glenwood Springs residents can expect increases of 10 percent in their water rates this year, and 20 percent in their sewer rates.But it could have been worse. And according to one City Council member, it probably should have been worse.”I’m still concerned that it’s not enough,” council member Dave Merritt said of the increases scheduled to be considered by council at its meeting tonight.Merritt would like to see larger increases because the proposed ones still would require the city to subsidize its water and sewer operations with general fund revenues. Municipal utilities are moving away from that practice, he said.”We need to price water and wastewater at their real value so people recognize that,” he said.Such “conservation pricing” might help induce people to be more careful with their water use, he said.Merritt comes at the issue from two perspectives – both as a local elected official and as chief engineer of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which looks out for the water interests of the Colorado River watershed within the state.He has conducted a comparison of Glenwood Springs’ water rates to those of other municipalities. Even with the proposed increases, “we’ll still be less than the area communities and frankly we’ll be less than the Front Range entities as well,” he said.Council earlier had considered higher rate hikes, with the goal of ending the subsidy of the utilities’ operations and paying for a new wastewater treatment plant in West Glenwood. However, several council members had qualms about the size of the increases initially proposed, particularly at a time when people also are facing sharp jumps in gasoline and home heating costs.Council was able to buy some financial breathing room by postponing the start of work on the new plant until 2010. The initial phase of it could cost at least $25 million, with the assumption that it would be expanded later.A consultant has completed a study identifying a total of $46.4 million in eventual improvements that will be needed by the water and wastewater systems. Customers can expect future increases in coming years as the city works to pay for those needs.Merritt said that even three consecutive years of 10 percent increases in water rates would leave Glenwood Springs ranked in the middle of Western Slope communities in terms of how much it charges.Glenwood water customers now pay a minimum of $7 a month, along with a per-gallon fee that increases incrementally to charge higher-volume users more. A customer using 2,000 gallons a month now pays $9.40 a month; one using 8,000 gallons pays $17.60. The proposed increase would raise those amounts to $10.34 and $19.36, respectively.Most Glenwood residents now pay $17.75 a month for sewer service. That would increase to $21.30 under the current proposal. The city consultant’s report shows area rates that range from $9 for in-town Carbondale residents to $42.83 for Silt residents.Carbondale charges a higher rate – $13 – for sewer customers outside city limits. Under one plan to be considered by Glenwood’s council tonight, customers living outside the city would pay $25.56, rather than the $21.30 proposed for in-town residents.Restaurants and high-volume residential customers pay more for sewer service now and also would face increases under the proposal.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext.

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