Proof required for senior utility discount in Rifle |

Proof required for senior utility discount in Rifle

Senior citizens in Rifle can still apply for a 20 percent reduction off the city’s base water and sewer rates, but now must provide proof they meet residency and financial requirements.

The City of Rifle had offered the discount for several years, but did not require proof that an applicant was qualified. After a citizen complained last year that her neighbors were getting the discount but were not senior citizens, several requirements were added and given initial approval at the City Council’s March 5 meeting.

Government Affairs Coordinator Kimberly Bullen wrote in a memo to the council that to be eligible for the program, senior citizens must be more than 62 years of age, be the head of household, occupy the residence and meet financial eligibility requirements. Applicants must re-apply annually to continue the program.

The income level from all sources for a single individual can not exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty level per year, Bullen wrote. For 2014, that amount is $14,587.50. A married couple could not exceed $19,662.50.

Acceptable documents verifying program eligibility include a birth certificate, a current Colorado driver’s license or ID card with date of birth, a Medicare card or Social Security document. Income can be proven with a federal income tax return or qualifying for the state’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program. Residence and utility payment responsibility can be proven with a copy of a rental agreement, or a letter from the property owner stating that payment of the utilities is the responsibility of the applicant.

If an applicant uses more water or sewer above the base rate limits, they will be subject to the standard rate, Bullen noted.

Meanwhile, despite a sharp increase in transportation costs, City Council approved continued participation this year in the senior meals and transportation program run through a nine-party memorandum of understanding.

Rifle’s costs are $125,386, with transportation costs accounting for $115,762 of that amount, under a fund-sharing agreement, wrote City Manger Matt Sturgeon in a memo to the council. That was up from a total 2013 contribution of $97,485. The city’s 2014 budget appropriated $116,000 towards this program. Sturgeon said staff will find the $9,300 shortfall in the budget, and noted transportation costs for Rifle have risen from $78,785 to $115,762 since 2009.

“That’s a 47 percent increase and we really need to sit down with everyone involved because we can’t absorb these kind of significant increases in the future,” Sturgeon told council.

In other business, City Council:

• awarded a $31,000 contract to Sopris Engineering to design improvements along White River Avenue, from 9th to 16th Streets.

City Engineer Rick Barth explained in a memo to the council that the city received ownership of that section of White River Avenue in the early 2000s. At that time, Garfield County provided $250,000 to bring the street up to city standards. However, pedestrian improvements were not included, Barth said, and the street is now heavily traveled by both vehicles and pedestrians, especially school children. The roadway is tight in spots as well, he noted.

Construction of a sidewalk – which will be designed to potentially connect to the Rifle Creek trail near the entrance to Creekside Condominiums – and other roadway improvements may require a retaining wall, slight realignment and drainage improvements, Barth added. A basic traffic analysis of the 9th Street and White River intersection will also be included, although not likely to be part of a construction contract at this time, he noted.

Grants will be sought to pay for, at a minimum, the costs of the sidewalk from 9th to 16th Streets, possibly drainage and slope controls on the west side of White River, Barth said.

• denied a request from the Pioneer Mesa Homeowners Association to maintain an asphalt basketball court in the West Rifle subdivision. The request was recommended for denial by the city Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which cited unfunded city parks maintenance needs that must take priority and a concern that other subdivisions would soon follow suit.

Parks and Recreation Director Tom Whitmore also noted in a memo to the council that the subdivision improvement agreement for Pioneer Mesa states that the homeowners shall own and maintain the park and allow its use by the public.

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