by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- On Tuesday, the La Veta Town Board held a public meeting for comments on the Town’s pending water rate hike. The Board prepared a statement as a handout, and this was read aloud by Mayor Pro-tem Larry Klinke to approximately 50 people in attendance. Prior to February, water rates were $15 for water and $14 for debt service, for a total of $29. After the rate increase, water became $27 plus $6.50 for debt service, for a total of $33.50, an increase of 15.5%. Sewer rates went from $12 to $22. The current water debt is $1,153,526 at 1.875% interest on a 30-year note. The base rate was raised to cover the cost of treating and providing the water. Receipts over the cost go toward future projects. One of those involves about $200,000 to build structures and pay costs related to using the newly acquired Mexican Ditch (storable) water rights. Another is the state-mandated repair to the North Lake, at an estimated $750,000. A sewer system repair on the west side of Town will cost about $2.2 million. The Town is also anticipating the need to upgrade its sewage treatment system from a lagoon to a treatment plant, at an unknown cost, due to stricter State regulations.
Darrell Arnold told the Board, “The action of raising water rates has hurt townspeople. People are in fear of their tiered use.” He added, “The town looks unkempt. It is leaving a bad impression on residents and visitors, I think.” Then he warned, “It’s easy to slip from being a public servant to being a bureaucrat. Instead of serving the people, you are serving the Town.”
Arnold suggested that all the water meters be read on the same day of the month, and several people in the crowd voiced their agreement. When Mayor Don Keairns asked him, “Would the people of the Town be willing to have $10 a month added to their bill in order to do that?”. . . there were scattered voices answering “yes.”
Klinke said he has been reviewing June’s water usage and has made it through 302 of the 577 bills. He said 36% of water users are using up to the base rate of 6,000 gallons. He asked, “Should the minimum bill start at 6,000, or some number lower than that? Is 6,000 really the average use, or is it more like 9,000 gallons?” Klinke said he is in favor of doing “what is best for our citizens and also good for the Town” and suggested that the loan payments and interest be shown on bills, like a special assessment. Trustee Tracy Webb said there are around a dozen water users who use over 50,000 gallons of water a month, a situation Trustee Dale Davis called a “lifestyle choice.” Webb asked, “If they are using 40,000-50,000 gallons per month, should they not pay more than I do when I use 8,000?”
One audience member told the crowd, “We have a really good deal on water. The rate seems really fair.” Referring to the scenic beauty of the area, he said, “You can’t have everything.” Then he added, “If you want to see ugly towns, take the train from Trinidad to New York City. You’ll see some really ugly towns.”
Throughout the meeting the issue of reading the water meters continued to surface and seemed to be a big concern for a majority of those in attendance. Another meeting has been set for July, and a decision to enact the new tiered rates will apparently be held off until then, at least. In the meantime, the summer watering season is in full swing.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward