Meeker board to vote on water rate hike; rates still lower than other towns

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MEEKER I The Meeker Town Board will consider a slight water rate hike through a proposed resolution at its Feb. 3 meeting. A resolution allows the board to raise those rates by vote of the majority of the board and is not subject to a public hearing.

“The action was requested by DOLA (Colorado Department of Local Affairs) due to our grant funding, and the town is adjusting its water rates,” Town Administrator Scott W. Meszaros told the Herald Times on Thursday. “A lack of action on our part could easily jeopardize DOLA grants in the future.
“The town staff has assembled a tiered rate structure for consideration of approval to make our rates more in line with current operations and expenses and to be more in line with regional fees.
“Even with the new fee structure, we will remain cheaper than all other towns of comparable size that I can find in Colorado,” Meszaros said. “In many cases, we will remain much cheaper than the other towns.”
His comparisons in Colorado included Rangely, Silt, Silverthorne, Parachute, Bayfield, Craig, Georgetown, Monument and Woodland Park.
Currently, Meeker charges $24 for the first 8,000 gallons of water, which is $3 per 1,000 gallons as a base. Meszaros said that base figure will not change.
The rate for use of 8,000 to 15,000 will rise by $1.20 per thousand gallons above the original 8,000 gallons; by $1.30 per gallon for each thousand gallon above 15,000 gallons up to 30,000 gallons, by $1.35 per 1,000 gallons from 30,000 gallons to 50,000, and by $1.75 per 1,000 gallons from 50,000 gallons to above 75,000 gallons per month.
Rangely charges a base of $3.35 per 1,000 gallons of water, which is $26.80 for 8,000 gallons, or $2.80 above the proposed Meeker rate. For the same incremental increase, Rangely’s charges will be $63.95, $114.20; $181.20; and $264.95. Out-of-town rates in Rangely are $6.65 per 1,000 gallons.
The Town of Silt charges $36.49 as its base rate for 1,000 to 2,000 gallons, 75 cents per 1,000 gallons additional for 2,001 gallons to 6,000 gallons, and an additional $1.50 per 1,000 gallons from 6,001 to 10,000 gallons, $2.50 additional for 10,001 gallons to 14,000 gallons, an $3.50 additional per 1,000 gallons up to 18,000 gallons, and $5 per additional 1,000 gallons from 18,000 and up.
Silverthorne has a base rate of $38.91 and an additional $1.35 per 1,000 gallons up to 15,000 gallons.
Parachute has a base rate of $44.95 for 10,000 gallons, an added rate of $2.22 per 1,000 gallons for the next 3,000 gallons and an added rate of $3.78 per 1,000 gallons above 13,000 gallons.
Bayfield has a base rate of $26.25 for the first 6,000 gallons and an additional rate of $3.25 per 1,000 gallons from 6001 gallons to 15,000. Craig has a flat rate of $2.75 per thousand gallons.
Georgetown has a base rate of $43.15 for up to 7,000 gallons and from 7001 gallons to 17,000 gallons, the added rate is $6.23 per 1,000 gallons.
Monument has a rate of $4.99 per 1,000 gallons up to 6,000 gallons and $5.99 per 1,000 gallons up to 12,000 gallons.
Woodland Park charges $27.24 for the first 4,000 gallons, $7.42 per 1,000 gallons up to 6,000 gallons total and $8.49 per 1,000 gallons for up to 8,000 gallons, and $10.81 per thousand gallons up to a total of 9,000 gallons for a bill that would be $69.89. That compares to a total of $25.20 for the same amount of water in Meeker.
All of the rates we have taken a look at are for customers within the town limits of each of the towns, including Meeker.
The other towns either don’t supply water to out-of-town residents or charge much higher rates—sometimes up to triple the amount charged to in-town residents.
Meeker’s base rate to out-of-town residents will be doubled to a $48 for up to 8,000 gallons, and the added quantities will be tripled in comparison to those rates mentioned above.
The last rate hike of water rates in Meeker was in November 2008.
“DOLA, when talking to us about grant money, said if we had raised our rates by roughly 25 cents per 1,000 gallons each year, we would have had all the money we needed,” Meszaros said. “It is similar to buying a brand new truck and not putting a penny worth of maintenance into it for seven years. The longer you go without maintaining that truck, the more problems that are going to arise with the truck until, eventually, it just won’t go any more.
“We have all the water we need, but the town of Meeker hasn’t put anything into maintenance of the system, and that is why we need the money,” he said. “I would like to see us get to where we are even with the lower-priced water structures for towns our size, but I don’t want to do it all in one shot.
“I would like to see us increase rates but at a level that is tolerable yet as low and slow as possible,” he said.
Meszaros said the water fund is in dire need of additional funds to address the town’s numerous projects and some urgent infrastructure demands on the town’s aged system.
“It is intended that the proposed increases will yield a long-term improvement in the Water Fund Reserve so the town is not faced with making difficult future decisions such as needing bonds, mill levy increases or other drastic actions should system repairs or maintenance projects demand immediate fixes, which would unquestionably be beyond existing Water Fund revenue streams or reserves,” Meszaros said. “This may be coming, regardless.”
He said that the state Water Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment has taken water samples in the area, and many of the wells begin at a depth of only 60 feet.
“They are testing to see if surface water is infiltrating those wells, many of which are quite shallow; and if it is, then we are liable to be required to build a sewage treatment plant,” Meszaros said.
“We have a layer of shale down there that should protect those wells, but all I can say is that a cheap water treatment plant will cost us at least $8 million,” he added.
If the money is not intact at the time, if that is required, then Meeker would need to pass a bond election or the town board would have to raise, without voter input, the water rates to a level that is sky high to meet those costs, he said.
“We really need to look down the road,” Meszaros said. “If the town board doesn’t raise the rates, we have been told that future grant money could be jeopardized.
“We have really had a good run of cheap services,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is catching up to us now.”
The resolution is on the agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 3, and because it is a resolution, which does not require a public hearing, it will be up to the town board and the mayor as to whether or not public comments will be taken.
Other agenda items include:
n Request from Meeker Lions Club for a liquor permit for Feb. 14 to serve alcohol at the inaugural Valentine’s Party at the Fairfield Center.
n A resolution in support of nomination and designation of the Town of Meeker as a National Historic District.
n Agreement with Lee Overton to operate and manage the Meeker Recycling Facility.