With the holidays in full swing and the end of the year approaching, area utility providers say rising costs of operations are forcing them to play Ebenezer Scrooge by raising utility rates for the coming year.
The Empire Electric Association Board of Directors recently approved an average 6.3 percent increase in electricity rates for their Colorado and Utah customers in 2012.
Doug Sparks, member services manager for the energy co-op, said 4.8 percent of the rate change trickles down from an increase in the cost of wholesale power from supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission, while 2.7 percent of the increase is due to rising costs of operations at Empire Electric.
The board has worked real hard to keep it down, Sparks said. I watched them agonize over it. ... Nobody wants to have a rate increase.
Regardless, rising costs of wholesale electricity and transmission materials make the increase necessary, he said.
The rate change is from $17.50 to $19.50 per month for a basic residential or commercial charge. In addition, the residential and commercial usage rate increases from 10.734 cents per kilowatt-hour to 11.271 cents. For a home using 678 kWh a month, this could translate to a bill increase of $5.64 from $90.28 to $95.92.
Timed use, industrial, and street light electricity rates for Empire Electric customers are also set to increase Jan. 1 2012.
The Cortez Sanitation District board is scheduled to vote on an increase in multifamily residential sewer rates at 5:30 p.m. Monday at their 2902 S. Broadway office in Cortez.
If approved, this would entail a $2 per month increase from $30 to $32 for mobile home and multifamily housing unit customers.
District Manager Kyle Schreckenbach said sewer rates are based on concentration of sewer, not just volume. He said this is due in part to increasing electricity rates, because the district is one of the largest users of electricity in the area.
Its my job to keep us as debt-free as possible, he said.
The move would also change the billing structure back to a fixed rate structure for multifamily residential customers as opposed to a usage rate. Schreckenbach said this might actually save some customers money.
If approved, the new sewer rates will take effect Jan. 1. No increases are proposed for single-family, commercial or industrial sewer customers at this time.
Although the city of Cortez handles the Sanitation Districts billing, it has no authority over the sewer rate.
However, the city does offer water and garbage services, for which rate increases are also proposed.
To keep up with rising maintenance and operation costs to the water fund, a 25 cent increase is proposed in the residential base rate for water service from $13.50 to $13.75 per month. A 10 cent increase is proposed to the additional usage rate from $1.65 per 1,000 gallons to $1.75.
A $25 vicious animal fee is also proposed for when city workers are prevented by pets from working on water lines.
Due to increasing fuel costs and a 2.09 percent increase in disposal costs trickling down through the state and Montezuma County Landfill, a 3.4 percent increase is proposed for garbage collection fees.
A 50 cent increase is proposed for residential, multifamily residential and small commercial refuse rates from $14.50 to $15.
For commercial-sized garbage containers, an increase of 50 cents from $26.50 to $27 is proposed for 1.5- or 2-cubic-yard garbage containers as well as a 75-cent increase from $38.50 to $39.25 for 3-cubic-yard bins.
City officials say a small increase in fees now will help keep up with rising costs and prevent a larger increase down the road.
The city council is scheduled to vote on the proposed increase 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 210 E. Main St. If approved, the new rates will start Jan. 1.
But its not all bad news. Atmos Energy reports a 1 percent decrease in natural gas rates for area customers. Brian Martens, regional manager of public affairs for Atmos, said the price of natural gas has remained stable enough to allow for a decrease.
Financial assistance for those who qualify for help with utility bills is available through the Colorado LEAP program at www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-SelfSuff/CBON/1251580884665, or through the Montelores Emergency Assistance Coalition at 564-1195.
Reach Reid Wright at [email protected]