PINEDALE – As anticipated last fall when the new water and sewer rates were established, the Pinedale Town Council discussed increases to the rates at its Monday meeting, with most potentially going to commercial water users with 1.5-inch lines and larger. Residential customers, meanwhile, may actually see a nominal decrease on their monthly bills under the proposed changes.
The reason for the proposed rate change is that the town is not meeting industry-recommended reserve levels.
“The problem with this is these reserves,” mayor Bob Jones said. “The $150,000 (in reserves) for water and the $100,000 for sewer are way way lower than they should be by industry standards.”
According to Jones, the reserve levels should be at about $560,000 for water and $440,000 for sewer, acknowledging “that may not even be at all reasonable for what this council wants to do.” “A thousand people to foot a $1 million bill every year?” councilman Jim Brost said. “That’s not going to fly.”
With about 1,000 customers, that $1 million projection would require a substantial monthly increase to rates.
“It’s $80 more (per month) than what we’re paying now,” councilwoman Nylla Kunard said.
“We already bumped it up 45 percent (last fall),” councilman Tyler Swafford said.
Under the new proposed rates, residential customers with ¾ to 1-inch lines would see a $1 drop in their monthly bill, down to $61. For 1.5-inch lines, the combined water and sewer rate could see a 217-percent jump. Two-inch lines could see a 216-percent jump. Four-inch lines would go up 260 percent under the proposed rates.
“It’s all the big users,” Jones said, explaining that when the new rates were implemented last year, the big users saw a huge drop in their bills so the town is now trying to recoup that lost revenue by realigning rates closer to the previous levels.
“The town will be one of the biggest ones affected by it because we have some pretty big sprinkler systems,” Jones said.
Another potential change coming is a drop in monthly allotments. Over the winter, the town agreed to set the usage allowance at 40,000 gallons, in order to help homeowners bleed during the cold months. But according to the usage data, that can probably come down.
“What happened is, just like we knew, as soon as we put water rates in, people started tweaking,” councilman Matt Murdock said.
According to the stats, between March 16 and April 15, 191 water meters – out of about 1,000 customers – went over 20,000 gallons. Of those, 87 went over 40,000 gallons.
“Twenty-thousand (gallons) was what was recommended to me and turns out, that was a good recommendation,” Jones said.
But that allotment is cut in half during the summer months under the proposed changes. Residential customers will be allowed 10,000 gallons a month for irrigation between May 1 and Oct. 31. Then the allowance would go back up to 20,000 gallons from Nov. 1 to April 30.
The town called a special meeting for yesterday afternoon, when the rates were to be discussed and “possibly take action on water and sewer rates.”
In other news from the meeting:
According to Lingle, there is no other business on that one-block stretch that is affected by the new rules, since they have off-street parking. And the other side of the street is an empty lot owned by the town.
“There’s only one (business) that’s being impacted by that (change) and that’s mine,” Lingle said.
“If no warnings were issued, then as far as I’m concerned, we need to take that ticket back and tear it up,” Brost said.
“Can’t do that,” Jones replied.
Swafford also wondered why no warnings were issued and no notice was given to anybody on the block who might be affected by the parking change.
“I hope he’s not being targeted because that would be even worse – selective enforcement,” he said. “It seems odd that the second we put (a new parking sign) up, we put a ticket right there. … Three years ago, we reached out to people who were going to be impacted.”
Murdock agreed there should be a “grace period of saying, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Lingle, but we’re not going to be parking here.’”
Lingle pointed out that there are lots of other streets in Pinedale that have parking problems, so they should all be addressed at once, not a single block on a single street that only affects him.
“It’s easy to do it on Lincoln because the only person to stand up is me,” he said. “This ticket is completely arbitrary. ‘This law only applies to you, Mr. Lingle.’”