Opposition causes Hayden to reconsider utility rate increase | CraigDailyPress.com

Opposition causes Hayden to reconsider utility rate increase

Scott Franz

— The Hayden Town Council on Tuesday night significantly dampened the 71 percent base water rate hike it passed on first reading earlier this month.

The council voted, 6-1, to cut in half the proposed rate increase of $19.06 to $9.53 by proposing to transfer an estimated $104,000 from the town’s general fund to its enterprise fund next year.

Several Hayden residents stepped up to the podium at Town Hall to tell council members for the second night this month that the originally proposed rate increase was too much. The council voted, 4-1, on Dec. 1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would have raised the town’s base water rate to $45.62 per month and sewer rates by $3.20 to $15.20 per month starting Jan. 1.

“I would like to say I appreciate you guys revisiting the issue, and I think it’s pretty admirable you went this direction immediately after hearing resistance from people in this town,” Hayden resident Steve Znamenacek said before the council approved the lesser water rate increase.

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Under the revised ordinance the council passed Tuesday night, the water rate will increase to $36.13 and the sewer rate to $15.20.

The original rate increases were opposed by council member Dallas Robinson, who said the town instead should cut from its own budget.

“We’ve been elected because people believe in our creativity, and I think there are other places we can get this money,” Robinson said at the Dec. 1 council meeting that brought 15 people to Town Hall. “Increasing these rates is the easy way out.”

Because of that opposition, the council met Dec. 4 for an additional budget workshop where members discussed how they could shrink the original rate increase.

Hayden’s water and sewer operations require subsidies from the town’s general fund to operate, and Town Manager David Torgler said last month that the proposed rate increases would have allowed the enterprise fund to sustain itself financially, giving the public works department a chance to spend more on needed capital projects such as street repairs. The proposed rate increases are the second phase of a two-phase rate increase the town approved in 2010 to eliminate the budget shortfalls from the operation of the utilities.

“The impression from this council is we’re going to continue working to make the (enterprise fund) self-sufficient, and this was a big step toward that,” Mayor Jim Haskins said.

Hayden last year increased its water rates 40 percent from $19 to $26.60 and its sewer rates nearly 100 percent from $6.06 to $12 to start lowering those shortfalls.

Haskins said with the lower rate increases approved Tuesday night, the enterprise fund would not be self-sustaining, a goal he said the town still must work to achieve. He also added Tuesday night that further rate increases could be pursued as early as next year.

“We will probably be coming back for another increase in the future because the idea at the end of the day is to make (the enterprise fund) self-sufficient,” Haskins said.

Bill Hayden voted against the approved rate reduction, saying he would have liked to see it even lower.

“There are too many areas for us to look at to increase our efficiency so we could lower those rates for town folks,” Hayden said.

Town staff said the lower proposed water rate still allows Hayden to spend about $208,000 next year on additional capital projects that include street and road maintenance, and the increased sewer rates will generate revenue toward a $550,000 state-mandated project that will redirect the town’s sewer treatment plant outfall pipe from Dry Creek to the Yampa River.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

The council approved its 2012 budget. The $3.7 million budget is $835,000 larger than Hayden’s 2011 budget, and added expenses include $125,000 to repaint the town’s water tank, $100,000 for street-repair projects and $550,000 for the state-mandated outfall project.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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