County officials review water use

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Especially in tight budget times, money isn't well spent when it's being washed down the drain, Moffat County commissioners said lately.

While the board is busy figuring out how to chop $1.6 million to balance the 2004 budget, less water means less spending.

Water bills from the county-owned Craig Cemetery topped out at $6,135 for July. June's bill was about half that amount and the county spent $1,351 for May's water. Cemetery grounds aren't watered and the county isn't billed for many of the remaining months of the year.

Commissioners also are questioning if water is worth the costs on courthouse lawns, at the fairgrounds and at the Public Safety Center.

"I think we could water 80 acres of alfalfa with $6,000," said Commissioner Les Hampton, about the cemetery's high summer month water bill.

In July, the fairgrounds water bill about $1,852. That's up about $300 from last year said Fairgrounds Supervisor, Bill Sixkiller.

Irrigation on the fairgrounds lawn could be decreased, he said, but the indoor arena needs to be watered down for livestock safety.

Commissioners are set to discuss how they'll manage water usage in the future.

Water rates are set by the city and have increased by about four percent in the last few years to account for higher operating costs, said Craig City Manager Jim Ferree.

Though county commissioners have considered the idea of asking the city for a water discount, their first priority is to ensure all county water is being used as efficiently as possible.

The county is one of the city's larger water users, Ferree said, but he thought offering the county cheaper rates might be setting a precedent. Also he considered the rates, "a lot better than a lot of communities right now."

City water rates are set at the same price per gallon instead of on a sliding scale basis, a concept that many water operators have done recently to promote water conservation.

"If you do a discount to one then others will ask for the same," Ferree said. "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 said he hoped the county would still approach the council with the request.

As an aside, the city manager said price increases at the Moffat County landfill cut into city dollars. Last year landfill prices increased $6.50 a ton, a cost which the city hasn't yet passed on to its customers.

Ferree said he understands the need to up operating costs as they are due.

And the city also needs keep up with operating costs to continue stashing away money for upcoming $6 million dollar water upgrade.

City Councilor Don Jones agreed with some Ferree's points and said he'd also be willing to talk with commissioners about a water rates discount.

"We're more than willing to look at it, no doubt," he said.

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

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