Grand Lake votes to raise water rates by 6 percent annually for the next 10 years | SkyHiNews.com

Grand Lake votes to raise water rates by 6 percent annually for the next 10 years

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Grand Lake Town Board members voted unanimously in favor of a 6 percent annual water-rate increase for the next 10 years, going into effect in April 2009.

The vote followed a 2007 capital improvement plan from Diamondback Engineering’s Water Analysis report that identified $2.1 million in needed improvements to the water system infrastructure followed by a water-rate study prepared by the national firm Raftelis Financial Consultants.

Included in the capital improvement summary is an additional 500,000 gallon water tank, priced at $983,000, to satisfy Grand Lake’s future growth.

The 6 percent increase, which will bump up the quarterly in-town water rate from $82 to $147 by 2018, should net the town $1.1 million in a capital fund to ensure “safe and reliable water delivery” for the future, according to town officials. This figure is based on “the premise that the town can get low-interest loans on big-ticket items (such as the tank) from the State Drinking Water Revolving Fund, thus greatly reducing the need for a large cash reserve to fund these items,” says a memo from Town Manager Shane Hale to board members.

Over the last 10 years nationwide, water rates have increased 3 to 4 percent faster than the rate of inflation, according to information presented by Raftelis Senior Consultant Tom Beckley.

At the town’s workshop, Beckley presented a gallon of store-bought water with a $1.58 price tag, saying that the town’s water consumers will be getting the same “precious commodity” to their homes for 3.2 cents a gallon.

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The rate increase reflects a quarterly rate of $87 in 2009. Beckley pointed out that Grand Lake’s current rate ” as well as its initial increase ” still means the town will have some of the lowest rates out of four other water providers in the county, including Kremmling, Winter park, Fraser and Winter Park West Water and Sanitation.

The rate increase marks the first since 2002, when it went up from $75 to the present $82.

“It’s the first comprehensive (water enterprise) plan since I’ve been on the board,” said Jim Peterson, board member for 10 years.

But there are a few citizens, such as Gay Shaffer, who only require water during the summer and drain it seasonally at non-winterized homes. Those like her may see the rate increase as compounding their already disproportionate share.

For many years Shaffer has been paying quarterly rates for a service she only uses a few months out of each year.

At the meeting, the homeowner humbly asked the town board if it could consider a way to lesson the load for those carrying more than their share.

Water Superintendent Dave Johnson and town staff addressed Shaffer’s inquiry, saying the system’s fixed rate is based on the convenience of water being available at any time.

“Whether the water is on or off, it’s there for you,” Johnson said.

Town investments for infrastructure for the purpose of making water available at the turn of a faucet require each user to pay a share. Unlike U.S. mail, making delivery of water available cannot start and stop at consumer request, said Hale. “The system doesn’t lend itself to that,” he said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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