The Pueblo Board of Water Works green lights a 3.5% water rate hike

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This was a challenging year,” said Executive Director Alan Hamel, who reviewed the budget for the board. “We’ve been able to hold costs down and keep our rates reasonable. . . . We have the lowest rates of any major utility along the Front Range.” The $31.78 budget reflects a smaller rate increase than the 9 percent projected a few months ago or the 5 percent the board was looking at just two weeks ago…

The budget increased largely because of $3.56 million more in utility costs, mostly driven by a 24 percent jump in rates by Black Hills Energy. Other major expenses include $910,000 for an ongoing program to convert meters to automated reading, $628,000 for main expansion projects and $550,000 to rehabilitate the Hellbeck water tank.

The 3.5 percent rate hike means a homeowner with a 1-inch tap would pay an additional $1.15 per month in the winter, based on using 11,000 gallons, and $2.83 per month in summer months with water use of 32,000 gallons.

Meanwhile, the board heard from customers about the shut off policy for non-payment. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The water board was sympathetic to their plight, but also took the time to explain the safeguards already put into place to avoid shutoffs if possible. So far this year, 2,246 accounts have been shut off for nonpayment. That’s less than 10 percent of those who receive shut-off notices that advise customers water will be turned off if payment is not received within 42 days of the bill, explained Seth Clayton, manager of the finance division. The water board next year will increase funding of the Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Service, a program administered by Catholic Charities, to $100,000. In September, the board increased funding of the program because of the need in the communities…

The water board also is considering a budget billing program that would even out payments throughout the years. Shutoffs increase during summer months when water usage is higher, and payments could be averaged out by looking at historic use and making annual adjustments.

Finally, congratulations to Mike Cafasso who was elected President of the board at the Tuesday meeting, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Cafasso, vice president of operations for St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and a long-time bank executive, was named to the water board in 2007 to replace Vera Ortegon, who resigned to join Pueblo City Council. He was elected to his first full term, six years, on the board later that year. He is also a past president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and has been active in numerous church and civic activities. Cafasso will take over for Tom Autobee, a dentist who served for three years as president.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

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