The Cortez Sanitation District has inched closer to providing temporary relief to dozens of local businesses that saw sewer rates spike 100 percent or more this year.
At a meeting on Monday, Aug. 11, 223 days after the district instituted its new rate structure, CSD board members indicated they would lower fees for 54 impacted businesses. A handful of CSD’s commercial customers saw rates increase 300 percent or more this year.
“This is a good faith effort to help those who have been harmed,” said board president Ryan Griglak.
Under the proposal, all businesses and governmental customers that experienced rate increases of 100 percent or more would have their bills decreased by 100 percent, said CSD manager Tim Krebs. The measure is forecast to cost the district $68,589, but save business owners $56,628 and public entities $11,961.
The rate adjustments are subject to a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 20.
Seeking relief since the new rates took effect in January, Teresa Wlodyka, owner of the Tomahawk Lodge on South Broadway, said her sewer rates have surged 400 percent, increasing from $700 to $3,500 annually.
“That’s not fair,” she said.
Board member Ray Fox said the district’s rate structure, based on 20-year-old national averages rather than consumption, didn’t reward conservation-minded individuals with water efficient appliances.
“(Customers) are taking a beating,” he said.
The previous CSD board voted to switch rates based on consumption to national averages last year, citing inconsistent and unreliable water billing data from the city. City officials have dismissed the claim, but municipal leaders are now considering replacing the city’s aging water meters.
CSD board member Jim Candelaria said that basing fees on actual consumption would be the best option, but the rate debate is likely to linger. It remains unknown if or when the city will update its water meters, and CSD officials will be forced to develop a long-standing fee structure to balance its budget.
With a total of 4,445 customers, the district is projected to be over budget by more than $160,000 at the end of the fiscal year, according to Krebs.