Rifle sewer bills to increase by as much as 105 percent in May
RIFLE – In order to fund a much-needed wastewater treatment plant, Rifle residents likely will see a 105 percent increase in their sewer bills beginning April 1.City council members passed the first reading of the sewer rate increase at their meeting on Wednesday.The rate increase is necessary because the current treatment plant is old and near capacity and the city is in dire need of a new plant, said city manager John Hier.”Our present wastewater treatment lagoon system is at near capacity and cannot meet present or future regulations for wastewater treatment,” Hier said. “There are simply no alternatives other than to replace the outdated lagoon system with a modern treatment plant.”The new wastewater treatment plant, which will be located on the west UMTRA site off Highway 6, is estimated to cost between $18 and $20 million.”This is the largest capital project ever undertaken by the city of Rifle,” Hier said. “The rates may need to be fine-tuned based on the actual construction costs.”The council last year raised tap fees for residential and commercial development. But those are one-time fees and monthly service fees need to be increased in order to pay for revenue bonds to fund the new wastewater treatment plant.The city has so far received $1 million in grant money from the Department of Local Affairs for the project and will use $1 million from the city’s utility fund. The remainder will be paid for with bond funds over a 20-year period at a rate of approximately $1.6 million per year.Prior to the meeting, city staff had estimated the rate increase to be 100 percent of the existing sewer fee. However, consultant Jim Manire, an independent financial consultant from Denver, recommended raising the rates by 105 percent to cover the costs.The rate increase will mean that the base charge for sewer service, which includes the first 4,000 gallons of treatment, will go from $13.16 to $26.98, according to finance director Charles Kelty. The cost for every 1,000 gallons after that will rise from $3.21 to $6.58.The new ordinance will go for second reading before council at the next meeting on March 7.If approved, the rate increase will take effect on April 1 and residents can expect to see the change in their May utility bills.Senior citizens are eligible for a 20 percent discount on their utility rates and should call the utility billing department at 625-6221.
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