(Lander, Wyo.) – The Lander City Council hasn’t yet decided exactly what avenue to take when it comes to adjusting water and sewer rates in an effort to cover costs and save for future projects.
The council spent some time on Tuesday evening debating the matter, and no one voiced the idea that nothing should be done. Councilor Cade Maestas noted that doing nothing is not an option.
Earlier this month, Carl Brown of Carl Brown Consulting presented the council with the results of his water/sewer rate study that he was hired by the city to conduct. He suggested what he called a more “fair” approach to the rates, which allowed for only a 2,000 gallon monthly allowance as opposed to the 12,000 gallon allowance given now. Any usage beyond that would be paid for at a per 1,000 gallon rate. (Read more specifics of his study and recommendations here. His complete report can by found on the city’s website.)
Some customers, under Brown’s recommendation, would end up saving money, while others could face increased bills by more than 100 percent.
While the increase could help push for more conservation, which is part of the reason behind the rate change, Councilor Dan Hahn asked what would happen if usage got so low that the city was losing money. Treasurer Charri Lara said the plan would be to re-address the rates after three years. Brown did not expect conservation to reach those levels.
The council agreed by general consensus that city departments should be metered for their usage and charged out of their own budgets. Lara said this would help the city account for some of the missing 23 percent of citywide usage.
Councilor Buddy Spriggs voiced his opinion that the drop in allowance from 12,000 to 2,000 gallons was too much; he suggested 6,000.
The council also seemed OK with the idea of basing each customer’s summer sewer bills on an average of three months of winter water use. This is because most of the water used in the winter is returned to the sewer system as there is no outside watering taking place. The council was also amenable to the idea of setting a set sewer rate for snow birds who don’t use any water in the winter while they are out of town.
Former Lander Mayor and State Rep. Del McOmie advised the council to be careful of raising rates too much for commercial customers. “This for certain types of businesses is a tremendous hit,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t figured into any of their business plans.”
One resident, who operates a trailer park in which multiple lots use one large meter, said he expects to get hit hard. However, he did understand the city had to do something. Strategies were discussed to help him monitor each lots usage.
Maestas mentioned Brown’s statements that currently low water use customers are subsidizing the larger users. He said the reverse is true in most other respects, because without the larger users the tax base wouldn’t be there to support the town. “Making it more expensive to do business isn’t the way to make it better,” he said.
The council did not discuss any specific price points for future rates. They agreed to discuss the matter in another, more focused work session before bringing recommendations before the public.