September 21, 2022 |

Rawlins City Council on Tuesday night approved a water rate increase on a 5-2 vote. The increase means that the average household will see their bills increase approximately $20.50 a month.

Under the new water utility fee, the monthly base rate for residential meters 3/4 and 5/8 inches in size will increase from $14.00 a month to $29.48 a month. Commercial customers with larger meters will pay more on a scaled basis. The unit charge for 1,000 gallons will increase slightly from $3.00 to $3.48 for all customers.

A motion from Councilman Debari Martinez to charge residential meters $21.00 a month failed. Martinez argued during the work session prior to the vote in the regular meeting that the rate increase is too steep for residents on fixed incomes.

Councilwoman Linda Smith acknowledged that the hike will be painful for some more than others but argued that council had a rare opportunity to do something “monumental” to protect the city’s future.

Smith added that a significant rate increase is required to secure the possibility for future grant money to help with the repairs needed for the city’s water infrastructure system.

Two residents rose during public comments and spoke in favor of the increase. One was Leslie Schmidt, who said the city faced a “day of reckoning” because of bad city management in the past.

In voting against the motion for capping the rate at $21, Councilman Aaron Durst echoed the view that the larger increase is needed now because of the lack of action be previous administrations.

During the work session and during the regular council meeting, staff members like City Engineer Austin Gilbert said the rate increase will open avenues to grant funding that could be denied if council did not pass the rate hike recommended by Karl Brown, the utility specialist hired by the city to study the city’s water system and how to pay for it.

Prior to the vote, Public Information Officer Mira Miller told council that residents on fixed incomes have resources available to them to help offset the increase.

Councilman Martinez’s motion to set the increase at $21 failed on a 2-5 vote with Councilman Chris Weisenburg voting yes.

The vote to approve the rate structure as recommended to the city by the utility specialist passed on a 5-2 vote with Martinez and Weisenburg voting “no.”

It’s unclear when the new rate will be applied, but city officials told Bigfoot 99 that it will not be included in the bill that goes out in early October.

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