|“Nobody likes a rate increase, I personally do not like raised rates, but for Round Mountain Water to keep providing sewer and water services to our accounts, we have to build the proper equipment to do our job,” Director George Medaris explained. “And this is not a voluntary choice, if the water district does nothing, the state will shut down the sewer system. We created an equitable rate increase that charges based on use, rather than the old system of a flat fee, regardless of how much was used.”
The vocal pushback from a rate increase that Round Mountain Water initiated after three years of discussion has been intense. Medaris announced that Round Mountain Water will hold a public meeting on Thursday, April 19 at 5:15 p.m. at the bowling alley community room.
“We have a lagoon system that was built in 1976, since that time, water and sewar usage has risen more than 400 percent.” The excrement from 2000 daily users has damaged the ability for the existing system to operate without massive upgrades. “We do not know exactly how much the building of a mechanical plant will cost, but our best guess now is over $6 million.” That’s roughly a cost of $10,000 for each of the 616 current Round Mountain accounts which represents around 2000 average daily users. “We are a poor rural town, but we have to find a way to build a new treatment plant.”
The District has to act, the state had questioned and condemned the system as early as 1991. When asked on a scale of zero to four how close the state is to shutting off the sewer system? Medaris stated the risk was at a three, “there is now a state enforcer at every meeting.”
Medaris is uniquely qualified for the challenge. He directed neighboring Fremont County’s water and sewer districts for over twenty-five years. “When I first arrived in 1981, raw sewage would often be dumped right into the Arkansas, rural areas often took the cheap option handling waste.” But communities in the Canon City area banded together, created a metro water district that built the large treatment plant east of Florence easily visible from the highway.
“The more equitable rate increases allow Round Mountain Water to apply for low interest loans and grants from the USDA that will finance the new facility. But until our average account bill rose above $40 a month, we would not qualify for any government assistance.”
Medaris describes the rate increase as a more equitable way to use water and sewer. “We needed to charge accounts based on total usage instead of simply being hooked up.”
This means that moving forward, business and buildings that use and discharge waste, will be charged proportionally.
However, this means that the costs for many businesses such as RV parks and the school, will see rates jump dramatically. The Custer County School District saw its yearly costs go from around $16,000 to an estimated $45,000.
Next Thursday is a time for citizens to ask questions about how the new rates are being calculated.
– Jordan Hedberg