(File photo from a Lander City Council work session.)
(Lander, Wyo.) – After nearly two hours of discussion on Tuesday evening, the Lander City Council still has not agreed on the best approach for adjusting water and sewer rates to cover regular costs as well as loans for infrastructure improvements.
No major decisions were made, and studying a number of ideas will continue in a work session following next week’s regular council meeting.
Due to pending loans for wastewater system improvements being required by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the city will have to raise the sewer rate base by $6-$10 a month, or adjust the price along with a consideration of gallons based on winter usage, Councilor Cade Maestas and City Clerk Robin Griffin said. The sewer change must be done by December in order for the city to be eligible for the loans it seeks for the improvement projects.
The majority of the disagreement is how to structure water rates.
A couple local business owners attended the meeting, and Maestas and Council President Nancy Pieropan said they both were supportive of the need to adjust water and sewer rates, however they reportedly raised concerns about prices for large water users increasing by more than 200 percent.
The city hired a consultant to review the current rate structure and suggest changes. In September, he recommended dropping the monthly water usage allowance from 12,000 gallons to 2,000 gallons. Any usage over 2,000 gallons would be paid for at a set per 1,000 gallon rate. (Read about the consultant’s recommendations here, and previous council debate in this story.)
Maestas said the drop from 12,000 to 2,000, and the price changes included in the recommendation might be too much for some businesses to sustain all at once. He suggests lowering the allowance to 8,000 gallons a month, and then after two years decrease it to 6,000 gallons, followed by another possible decrease two years later.
“I think we found a way to make every body less unhappy than we would have,” he said.
Pieropan, however, said herself and city staff are “frustrated” by the idea of not going with the consultant’s recommendation. She said she is of the belief that people should pay for what they use. But, she agreed the 12,000 to 2,000 gallon jump was probably too drastic.
Mayor Mick Wolfe said it “seems silly” not to listen to the consultant’s suggestion. “Why even hire a consultant if you’re not going to consider what he says?” he said.
When asked what he thought of some of the alternative ideas, he said he was neither for or against them. Wolfe said he plans on gathering information from other cities and towns who used the same consultant to find out if they listened to his ideas.
During next week’s meeting, the council plans on being able to see the true impact on the budget and customers should they go an alternate route from the consultant’s ideas.