City sets utility rates


ALAMOSA — In a 6-1 vote and with no input during a public hearing, the Alamosa city council approved utility rate increases for 2019.

The rates will apply to water, sewer and trash services.

Councilman Charles Griego voted against the rate ordinance during the city’s November 7th meeting.

Depending on usage, the average residential bill for all city utilities combined could increase by $2-9 a month, based on October comparisons.

A rate increase was already planned for 2019, but the city council approved a slightly higher increase than originally planned.

At the request of Councilman Jan Vigil, city staff provided comparisons from actual October bills for residential, industrial and commercial users to what those same bills would be with the increase in 2019.

For example, a residential customer on Bell Avenue on the senior rate, using 2,000 gallons of water (with corresponding sewer) and a 96-gallon trash tote paid $29.07 this October and would pay under the new rate, with the same water usage, $31.40 in 2019, or $2.33 more on that October bill.

A residential customer on Ninth Street, using 1,000 gallons of water with corresponding sewer usage and a 96-gallon trash tote paid $29.90 this October and would pay $2.43 more, or $32.33, under the new rates next October.

A residential customer on Calle Buena using 17,000 gallons of water in October, with corresponding sewer usage and paying for a 96-gallon trash tote, paid $67.04 in October this year but will pay under the new rates and with the same usage next October $71.45, or $4.41 more that month.

A higher usage residential customer on Shadowood with the same size trash tote but using 47,000 gallons of water in October paid $155.87 but would pay $165.09, or $9.22 more, next October under the new rates.

A commercial customer on Main Street using 110,000 gallons and receiving trash pick up of one container three times a week paid $671.92 this October but will pay $724.96, or $53.04 more, next October, given the same usage.

An industrial customer on 17th Street, using 404,000 gallons of water and having three trash containers picked up twice a week, paid $3,090.95 this October but would pay $3,284.76 for the same usage under the new rates next October, or $193.81 more.

These rates were based on actual customers’ bills for October.

Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks explained that the rate increases were considered in the 2019 budget, which the city council approved. She explained that the enterprise funds such as water and sewer must be operated in a manner where revenues cover operational and capital expenses, and the original increase proposed for 2019 would not have accomplished that goal. It would have covered operational but not capital expenses, she added. That is why an additional 1-percent increase was proposed.

She said she realized that raising utility rates was not popular but was necessary to cover the expenses involved in providing those utilities to city customers.

“We tried to keep it as flat as possible,” Brooks said.

The ordinance approved by council this month sets the rate increases through 2023, with water rates set to increase by 5 percent each year, sewer rates to increase 7-8 percent each year and sanitation (trash) rates to increase 10 percent in 2019, 4 percent in 2020, 2021 and 2023 and 6 percent in 2022.

Councilman Vigil thanked staff for providing hard data to compare the current and future rates and said while it was never a good idea to raise rates, he understand why it was necessary. He said this also might encourage folks to conserve water.

Also during the November 7th Alamosa city council:

• approved up to $50,000 for prosecution software to increase efficiency in municipal court, which handles 1,700 cases a year.

• approved on first reading and set for Dec. 5 an ordinance aligning city clean air ordinances with the state clean indoor act (for example prohibiting smoking in taverns) and providing for smoking lounges.

• authorized staff to apply for a $100,000 energy/mineral impact assistance grant for Washington Addition street design, estimated to cost $250,000. Councilman Griego said it had taken him 35 years to get to this point and he was pleased to see this action on behalf of the Washington Addition. “I’m sure the people in that area will really appreciate this,” he said.

• approved 6-1 with Councilman David Broyles dissenting a liquor license for Tempura House.

• awarded the bid for HVAC system replacement at the wastewater treatment plant to Vision Mechanical for $231,507, with most of the funds already provided in the capital improvement project budgets with the unbudgeted portion to be covered in savings from the wastewater treatment plan outfall relocation project and enterprise fund savings. The city may also receive an energy efficiency rebate from Xcel but cannot count on that yet. The city did not go with the local bidder because that bid was about 20 percent higher than the low bid. The city gives a 7-percent preference to local bidders.

• approved on first reading and set for a Dec. 5 public hearing an ordinance amendment allowing manufactured homes in campus zones. This would provide for a manufactured home that Gingerbread House wants to place on Adams State University property.