Commissioners try to make water fees wash

County plans to ask city to wave fees

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Moffat County commissioners are tired of watching money go down the drain. That's the situation at the Craig Cemetery as officials there are keeping the grass green at a cost of $16,000 a year.

But there may be little the county can do about it. The water service is regulated and distributed through the city of Craig, which has the final say on how much the county pays to sport its lush-looking cemetery grounds.

"I really do think that should be the city's contribution," said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos at Monday' s commission meeting about the prospect of free water. "I know they run it as an enterprise but I think we should make the request."

Twenty-five acres of the cemetery's 40 acres is watered by more than 178 sprinklers. Commissioners requested Bruce Zobel of the county's coroner office to research estimates for an automatic -- and hopefully less expensive -- watering alternative.

But the results of an updated watering system to the tune of almost $300,000 and a brand new system coming in at a third of that price were out of the question, the board said.

"We were trying to look at where we could save money and the answers came back that we would have to invest a lot of money to do that," said Commissioner Les Hampton. "We were beating our heads on the budget to cut back on this but I guess we'll move on now."

About 20 years ago a group of individuals formed a cemetery association and took the Craig Cemetery under its wing providing maintenance work and upkeep that reflected little cost to county coffers.

In the next decade the county was deeded the cemetery during an economic slump in a move that was intended to help out other financially flailing entities, such as the city, said Raftopoulos.

In 1999, the city put meters on water used at many locations around town to keep track of its usage. At the time, the county was told it wouldn't be charged for the readings and that it was merely a way the county could keep tabs on its usage, Raftopoulos said.

"Water could be one thing that governments share with each other," she added, noting that city residents benefit from the cemetery.

But, according to Craig City Manager Jim Ferree, offering the county cheaper water rates may be setting a precedent.

"If you do a discount to one then the others will ask for the same," he said when contacted for a similar story. "Who wouldn't want a discount? It's a matter of where we draw the line."

Ultimately, it would be a council decision.

But Ferree added that the water charges are important to save up for a proposed $6 million upgrade on to the water plant. Water rates have increased by about four percent in the last few years to account for higher operating costs, he said.

On the subject of offering the county free or reduced services, Ferree pointed out that increased rates at the county-owned landfill cut into city dollars -- a cost the city hasn't yet passed onto its customers.

He considered the local water rate "a lot better than other communities are getting right now."

As commissioners prepare to ask city officials for a break on water prices, they intend to also ask for monetary assistance on keeping a six-channel free TV service for county residents.

Lightheartedly, Commissioner Darryl Steele wound up the discussion saying, "You ask (the city) about the water and I'll ask about the TV."


Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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