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Work session addresses rate increase issues

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The Walsenburg City Council met in a work session Tuesday night to discuss necessary rate increases for the municipal water enterprise fund.
Mayor Larry Patrick told the audience of 15 residents this was a simple business issue. He said if the city was a downtown business selling a product, in this instance water, for less than half what it costs to produce, the business wouldn’t stay in business very long.
City finance director and interim administrator David Johnston presented council members with at least the fourth proposed price hike guideline he has done on the subject this year. He explained whatever increase the council decides to go with, base rate increases will be necessary to cover the cost of the waste water treatment plant bond issue, the cost of production and help fund system repair, replacement and refurbishment. A timely example of the city’s aging infrastructure was a water line break over the weekend that caused a temporary water shut off for many Walsenburg residents.
Johnston told the council members who took part in the work session, that he was seeking at least a general concensus of the group. Council members reviewed the proposed rate increase plans Johnston had authored and while they indicated they were somewhat comfortable with the preferred scenario; which would call for a water base rate increase to $31.50 and a pay-as-you-use charge for water, they wanted him to run the numbers again, based on a proposal by council member Baca.
Baca said he would like to see how the numbers looked under a plan that would raise the water base rate to $32.50 and still include either 1,000 or 2,000 gallons of water. The current city water rate is $22.50 per month and includes 4,000 gallons of water and a charge of $1.25 per 1,000 gallons over the 4,000 gallons included in the base.