April 8, 2024 |

Photo – A new sewer line – Bigfoot99 file photo

Residents in Rawlins are facing a one-two punch. Water bills are likely to increase due to past governing bodies, who avoided making hard decisions. Bigfoot 99 reported on that story this past Friday. At the same time, residents are likely to see an increase in their sewer bills to pay for needed repairs.

City council is considering a 70% price hike on sewer bills, increasing the rates from $17 to $25.50 a month. The increased revenue will help the city pay tens of millions of dollars to maintain its failing sewer system.

The Rawlins city council held a special work session last Tuesday. City Manager Tom Sarvey presented a report detailing the health of the city’s water and sewer systems. Sarvey said he had come with a “hard ask.”

The city manager said the water system needs roughly $40 million worth of repairs. Sarvey proposed a 56 to 96 percent increase to residents’ monthly water bills. The extra money would be used to shore up the city’s ailing water enterprise fund and pay for millions of dollars of maintenance that past city councils have ignored. Sarvey said without a large rate hike, the city will inevitably suffer a water catastrophe.

The city’s sewer rates were also discussed during the special work session. City Manager Sarvey said the sewer system needs as much work as the water lines. However, the sewer fund does not generate as much revenue as the water fund.

Over the past 5 years, Sarvey said the sewer fund has lost nearly half of its value. The city manager said a funding transfer to the general fund will lower the amount in the sewer fund by another $400,000.

Sarvey said the sewer fund is losing money faster than it can be replenished. The city manager said all together, the sewer system requires $22,092,000 worth of repairs.

Sarvey said over eight miles of sewer lines have limited flow due to blockages. The city manager also said over 12 miles of sewer lines are past their operational lifespans.

Sarvey said every five years, Utah-based utilities contractor, RH Borden, performs sewer inspections for the city. The survey shows whether or not the city’s maintenance crews are successful in their battle to keep the sewer lines operational.

Sarvey said RH Borden reported that 85 of 768 storm sewer inlets in the city need to be replaced.

The city manager said the required sewer infrastructure improvements can be spread out over the next five years. However, at the present time, the city does not have enough money in the sewer fund to pay for any of the projects.

Sarvey said the sewer fund needs an additional $1.8 million to pay for next year’s proposed repair projects. The city manager said a 181% rate hike will be required for the sewer fund to break even.

Sarvey said a rate increase of 181% is too much of a financial burden for residents. Instead, the city manager asked the council to approve a 70% hike. Even with a 70% rate increase, Sarvey said the city will not have enough money to complete the needed sewer repairs.

Sarvey said the city is responsible for providing clean water and waste removal for its citizens. The city manager said he personally doesn’t want to institute huge rate hikes, but something must be done to ensure the city’s 8,200 residents continue to receive water and sewer services.

The Rawlins city council discussed ways to avoid putting the burden of maintaining the sewer system entirely on residents. Mayor Terry Weickum said despite being personally opposed to them, the city could require business licenses. Mayor Weickum said the licenses would help the city collect additional revenue on properties with multiple businesses.

Tuesday’s work session was only to discuss the proposed rate increases. The city council will review Sarvey’s reports and make a decision during the April 16th regular council meeting.

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