SOS: Hot Sulphur Springs businesses fear new water rate structure may sink them | SkyHiNews.com

SOS: Hot Sulphur Springs businesses fear new water rate structure may sink them

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado – When Mary Bernal opened her business in 1995, she joked it was the first “mini mall” in Hot Sulphur Springs, with a general goods store, liquor store and Laundromat.

Now with new water rates established in town, Bernal fears it may also be the last.

With the town’s new water-rate structure in effect since April, town business owners have formed a collective voice against rate increases feared to be detrimental to the town’s commerce.

Bernal calculates water rates at her 2,200 square-foot building steps from the town hall could amount to $900-plus a month if business owners and the town don’t arrive at a new solution.

On average, Hot Sulphur business owners expect a 500 percent water-rate increase, according to the newly formed Hot Sulphur Springs Business Alliance.

“I won’t have a business, and I’ve made (town officials) aware of that,” Bernal said. “I’ll have to do something else.”

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At present, her water-dependent Laundromat – the only one in town – merely breaks even. “I don’t really make a profit now on the Laundromat, but feel it’s a valuable service I provide,” she said. “Several families in town rely on it on a regular basis.”

On Sept. 10, Business Alliance representatives attended the Hot Sulphur town board special meeting, where town officials approved continuing a 50 percent rate cut for commercial customers until Jan. 1.

This gives business owners three months to work with the town to find a “viable solution for everybody,” Bernal said.

“I’m hoping for a resolution where the town businesses can remain in business and the town gets the money they need to, but not at the expense of businesses closing,” she said. “It would be a lose-lose situation if the town lost its businesses because of water bills.”

The town brought its rate structure up to standard in response to an aging system that drained town coffers.

The town revamped water billing by increasing the base rate of SFEs, or single-family equivalencies. One SFE – the rate for most residences – amounts to $94.20 a month. Commercial structures amount to greater numbers of SFEs.

But now that the town has concrete financials in place due to receipt of federal stimulus dollars, Bernal hopes it’s in a position to find compromise with business owners.

“We understand the town’s position – and we hope they can come to understand ours,”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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