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City utility committee eyes rate study

by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- The City of Walsenburg wants to do a rate study on water and sewer rates but is looking at ways to afford it. Asked if the city has enough money to handle the approximate $35,000 cost, City Finance Director Dave Johnston said, “I think we will, but I am reluctant to say so right now.”
The city has the new waste water treatment plant operating but still has costs associated with completing the overall project. Committee chairperson Erin Jerant said that the city has to be able to justify a rate study to the public as well as justifying any rate increases that might be incurred. Interim City Administrator Don Saling said it’s possible the cost could be less than the initial $35,000 price tag received by the city when they inquired into costs for a water and sewer rate study. Whether the city decides to lease water to Shell Energy for $90,000 could have an impact on that decision. No discussion was held about that.
Discussion could center around doing away with the flat rate system and base costs on actual amount of usage that residences and businesses consume each month. But the city needs to have a comparison so they can decide which way to go. Concerns were also expressed about upgrading our infrastructure in the city. Jerant said, “We can’t put that off for another 20 years.”
They then moved right on into the finance meeting. City Finance Director Dave Johnston said the city will likely just break even on natural gas revenue versus expenses this year. One worker from the gas department is retiring this summer and there will be costs associated with sick leave and/or vacation pay due him.
The city still plans on spending $450,000 on paving this summer. The streets and alleys department is going over proposals with interim administrator Don Saling on the streets being proposed for paving & repairs.
Finance chairman Craig Lessar asked for confirmation that a freeze on wages was still on for this year. Saling said the freeze is on until at least the end of June when a mid-year adjustment could come about if revenues were enough for consideration. Otherwise, the freeze would continue for 2011.

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