by Ruth Stodghill
TRINIDAD — The bad news: gas rate hikes are on the horizon for residents of the city of Trinidad. The good news: the city’s gas consultant recommended Trinidad offset some of the gas rate correction, making the overall hike much less painful than it could potentially have been.
During the regular meeting of the Trinidad City Council on Nov. 8, the board heard a report from John Krajewski, a consultant hired by the city to analyze Trinidad’s current gas rates and recommend any changes, if needed. According to Krajewski, the city’s metering and delivery fees are sufficient to cover internal costs of the gas department. “You’re collecting enough money through those components to pay your internal costs,” he said.
Krajewski stated that the city purchases its gas from the National Public Gas Agency, then sells that gas to the city’s consumers. “Normally, the way you set your rate up is to pass that cost through without markup. That’s the way your rate is designed to be working. It’s not working that way right now, which is why I’m here,” Krajewski said.
The city is supposed to update its rates annually, making adjustments for over and under collections. Krajewski stated that the former rate consultant didn’t update rates correctly during the last three years, resulting in a deficit for the city’s gas fund.
In short, the city is selling its gas to its customers for 23 cents per 100 cubic feet (CCF), while purchasing it at 43 cents per CCF – a 20 cent per CCF loss.
Krajewski said that standard operating procedure would see the city raise rates to cover last year’s losses, which would raise the gas supply charge from 23 cents to 60 cents per CCF. “Your average customer would pay about 60% more next year than they are right now,” said Krajewski.
“I don’t think that’s reasonable,” Krajewski said. “Especially when you have $5 million sitting in the bank in this other piece of the account for the gas utility.”
Instead, Krajewski recommended using some of those extra funds in the gas utility reserves to offset costs for customers, transferring $2 million into the gas supply account. This would allow the city to forgo recouping those costs from customers.
Krajewski also recommended implementing a gas rate increase in February 2024 of 10 cents per CCF. “That will be past the worst of the winter season, so there will be less impact on customers.” He stated that he’d recommend another rate hike in November to raise the total cost of gas to 43 cents per CCF, which is in line with current gas costs. The city should then reevaluate gas rates annually to avoid needing to make additional large adjustments in the future.
Pickleball decision delayed
After months of serve-and-volley regarding the best location for the city’s pickleball project, up for consideration was a bid for Project #14-2023, which would see construction of the project at the current Trinidad High School tennis courts. This location has been hotly debated since it was first proposed by Office of Outdoor Recreation Director Jared Chatterley. The pros: the site’s central location and affordability. The cons: the tennis courts have been plagued with settling issues caused by excess ground water which made the courts unusable for tennis despite multiple attempts to stabilize the area.
After discussion, the council voted to postpone the measure until the next regular board meeting to allow for a geotechnical engineer to study the proposed location of the pickleball courts and give their stamp of approval to the site.
Crime, code enforcement complaints
During public comments, Trinidad resident Tim Crisler expressed frustrations regarding a lack of code enforcement, specifically regarding illegal containers in his neighborhood. “We have rules in place. They need to be enforced. This is what I’m imploring you to do, is hold staff accountable to enforce these things.”
Several residents led by Tim Peters asked the council for help with a rising amount of neighborhood crime by local minors, including attempted home invasions and thefts, and a lack of law enforcement response.
In other business
During public hearings, the council spoke with James Prince, who was seeking approval from the city for a number of licenses for two businesses, including a retail cultivation facility, retail marijuana product manufacturing facility, medical marijuana infused-products manufacturer, and medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operation license on behalf of K&P Enterprise, LLC for Atomic Concentrates located at 3601 Freedom Road; and for a new retail marijuana store license also on behalf of K&P Enterprise, LLC for the Blazing Hippie located at 123 W. Cedar Street. Following discussion of the proposals, the council voted unanimously to approve the licenses.
The council also held a public hearing for consideration of ordinances granting Local Landmark Designations to two properties: the Greenhouse Parking Subdivision Parcel B, formerly known as Terry’s West Block 13 at 613 Arizona Avenue; and Greenhouse Parking Subdivision Parcel A, formerly known as Terry’s West Block 13 at 101 Pine Street. During the hearing council was informed that the designations will qualify the owners for incentives they can use for revitalization projects. Following the public hearing, the council unanimously approved second readings of the ordinances.
The final public hearing was for consideration of an ordinance vacating a portion of an unused alley in Block 1, Kirschbaum Addition to the City of Trinidad for property abutting 1006 Western, with Jane Fredman as the applicant. After discussion, the ordinance was unanimously approved.
The board passed the following consent agenda and miscellaneous business items:
• Approval of the Regular Meeting Minutes of October 17, 2023
• Reappointment of Danielle Rollo and John Armijo to the Planning, Zoning and Variance Commission
• Approval of Special Events Permit (Malt, Vinous and Spirituous) application filed by Brick City Roller Derby at 204 S. Chestnut Street on November 18, 2023
• Approval of Bills
• Approval of Payroll, October 28, 2023 through November 10, 2023
• Appointment of Laura Vega Flores to the Library Advisory Board
• Appointment of Richard Alford to the Arts and Culture Advisory Commission
• Appointment of Keely Williams to the Housing Authority Board
• Set a public hearing for gas rates at 6:00 p.m. on December 19, 2023
The board postponed a proposal for a one-year extension of a lease agreement with the Trinidad Golf Association for the management of the city municipal golf course in order to allow for more discussion of the golf association’s plan during the council’s next work session.