Pagosa Springs councillors approve new sewer rates

From The Pagosa Sun (J. Williams):

Upon conclusion of Tuesday’s Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting, town leaders put on their Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District (PSSGID) board hats and addressed a resolution to implement sewer rate increases.

Town Manager Andrea Phillips and Sanitation Supervisor Gene Tautges asked the board to approve an annual sewer rate increase of about 6.5 percent for the next 10 years, taking the monthly fee from the current $37.50 to $62 by the year 2028.

The proposal would also raise the “plant investment fee” (PIF) by $150 to a new level of $4,550. The PIF is a onetime charge for new connections to the town’s waste- water system.

The rate increases were the result of recommendations from a commissioned study by Stantec Inc., a consulting firm that was hired to help town staff analyze current wastewater rates and prepare a plan for future anticipated increases in capacity and sustainability.

According to Tautges, “It’s been at least 10 years since we visited our ability to maintain capacity through our present rate schedule. Things have changed a lot since 2007. No one likes to increase rates, but the way we have to look at it is that growth has to finance growth, while existing has to finance existing. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep up.”

Although mostly in agreement that a rate hike would be appropri- ate to maintain system standards, board members appeared to be in no mood to lock in rate hikes for 10 years.

To that end, board member Nicole DeMarco proposed addressing the needs one year at a time.

“I think it would be best to allow a hike to take effect Jan. 1, 2019, which would raise the monthly sewer rate from $37.50 to $40. But, we raise it for one year only. Can we do that?” she asked of Phillips, who quickly researched the particulars of the resolution to conclude, “Yes, we can do that.”

DeMarco noted, “I don’t think anyone is questioning the need for the additional funds. But, let’s revisit this year by year instead of just allowing for a onetime vote for an annual raise for the next decade.”

Board President Don Volger commented, “Of course, we could pass the 10-year proposal tonight and we’d always have the recourse to stop it, or reverse it, at some point in the years ahead.”
DeMarco asked, “Have we ever done that?”

Board member Mat deGraaf quickly interjected, “Never. Once a hike is in place, it never goes back- wards,” drawing nods and laughter from those in attendance.

DeMarco then made a motion to amend the resolution accordingly, raising the PSSGID’s monthly sewer rate to $40 and the PIF to $4,550, effective the first of the year.

The board passed the amended measure five to one, with David Schanzenbaker as the only dissenting vote.

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