Water rates reviewed tonight | CraigDailyPress.com

Water rates reviewed tonight

Christina M. Currie

Craig residents will see a 4 percent increase in their water and wastewater bills if the Craig City Council passes an ordinance tonight that would change the rates.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers of Craig City Hall.

The council has passed the ordinance on its first reading and there is no indication it won’t pass on its second and final reading.

A 4 percent increase means city residential rates will be raised from $14.80 to $15.60 a month and from $1.56 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $1.60. Out-of-city residents will pay $31.20, up $1.60 for water service and wastewater service will increase to $14.10 a month, up from $13.55 a month.

The average residential customer uses 10,000 gallons of water a month.

City Manager Jim Ferree said operational costs in the wastewater department have increased 7 percent over the last year and increased 10 percent in the water department.

“If we’re going to have these increases in costs, it makes sense to try and raise rates to keep pace with inflation,” he said.

No residents have publicly protested but that doesn’t mean the increase is welcome.

“I’ve been reading about it,” Craig resident Bob Shelton said. “I guess what upsets me is they told us the new water meters were going to save us money. If it did that, why do they have to raise the rate? It just seems a little soon.”

The water department installed new radio-read water meters citywide in 1998. Using those meters, residents are billed for their actual usage because meter reading is done automatically. Before the meters were installed, residents were responsible for reading their own meters and reporting the numbers. Immediately, the city saw a boost in revenue of about $14,000 a month — 15.5 percent. But that money wasn’t increased revenue, Ferree said. That money made up for a deficit created by treating water that was being used but not paid for. It also offset increasing operational costs, he said.

“If they really need it — fine,” Shelton said. “As long as it’s an increase for usage, not fees. I know they need to upgrade equipment once in awhile.”

The city’s water and wastewater master plan calls for the water plant to be expanded in 2006. Getting set for that $6 million project is one reason council members say the increase is justified.

“Customers need to cover some of the debt load of adding on to the water plant,” Mayor Dave DeRose said.

The city raised rates 60 cents a month in the beginning of 2002 and at the same time increased the cost for water by 6 cents per 1,000 gallons.

In 1998, rates were increased by $2 and the per-gallon cost was raised 50 percent. Rising operational costs were cited as the reason for the increase in both cases.

“I guess everything else is going up, so you almost expect it,” Craig resident Rebecca Simones said. “I’m not necessarily happy about it.”

The council has discussed implementing an annual increase to keep pace with the cost of living, rising operational costs and to bank money to reduce the debt load for the expansion but this ordinance does not include an ongoing increase.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council is scheduled to:

  • Consider a request for approval on an off-street parking and landscape plan for an indoor futsal (soccer) arena at 2303 W. 1st St.
  • Hear the second reading of an ordinance that would repeal an emergency fireworks ban put in place during the summer of 2002.
  • Hear the first reading of an ordinance authorizing a ballot question for the April 1 ballot that would amend the city charter to raise the minimum formal competitive bid requirements for improvement contracts from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Consider a resolution that would place on the April 1 ballot a question that would increase property taxes by one mill to establish a fund sidewalk improvements.
  • Consider a resolution that would place on the April 1 ballot a question that would allow the city to sell, by ordinance, a portion of abandoned sewer lagoon property on First Street.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. tonight in a workshop to discuss a potential local preferential purchasing policy, the city’s master drainage plan, a city news page and ballot questions.

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