By CHRISTINE COLBERT
For The Express
Hailey residents will likely see a reduction in their wastewater fees at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
The City Council on Monday agreed to a decrease of as much as 3.4 percent in the monthly base rate. The 2014 decrease will include fees incorporated last June for a study by HDR Engineering toward designs for a new biosolids facility.
The council listened to public comment on the issue, specifically regarding current charges associated with the HDR study. Some citizens complained that these extra fees have been charged at a variable rate, leaving some residents paying much more for the study than others.
In the end, the council agreed that the surcharge related to the study should be re-evaluated, considering an equal distribution of the cost.
“Water is a scarce resource, and it’s not getting any less scarce.”
“A study feels like it should just be parceled out equally to everybody. It doesn’t feel like my water usage has any bearing whatsoever,” said Councilwoman Carol Brown.
The engineering fees discussed will continue an analysis that will lead to a bond initiative for a new biosolids facility in Woodside. The $330,000 price tag of this study was allocated to be paid from 2013 through 2014, and put toward an effort to narrow down projected costs for the new facility.
The reduction in 2014 wastewater rates is anticipated to offset a possible increase in water consumption costs, as the council moved to adopt an amendment to the current payment structure. The council voted in favor of a three-tiered approach, in which costs would be divided equally based on water usage. A seasonal rate option was also presented, but ultimately rejected.
Initially discussed at the Aug. 26 council meeting, the three-tiered option sets up water rates as an increasing consumption block, elevating in relation to the amount used. Tier 1, with a usage level less than 10,000 gallons, would be set at a rate of 25 cents per 1,000 gallons. The second tier would be increased to a rate of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons, for those consuming between 11,000 and 20,000 gallons. Usage exceeding 21,000 gallons would be placed in the third tier, at a rate of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons.
At this time, 68 percent of the city’s water usage falls within the first tier in the new water payment structure. The proposed rate increase would average about $48 per year, which will also allow for the inclusion of various conservation efforts. Since usage rates are generally lower during winter months, Hailey residents will likely not feel the pinch of this new legislation until irrigation season next summer.
Mayor Fritz Haemmerle expressed regret over the proposed increase, noting that “water is a scarce resource, and it’s not getting any less scarce.” He identified the need to address the problem, since the last water plan made for the city of Hailey happened 11 years ago.
Resolutions regarding both water and wastewater rates will be presented at the Oct. 7 meeting.