August 4, 2022 |
The City of Rawlins continues to show its serious about protecting the municipal water supply from another system-wide failure. Part of that effort is moving forward with fines against residents who refuse to comply with the restrictions in place to conserve water this summer.
After legal review, City Attorney Gwendolyn Wade outlined the how the regulations will be enforced at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. The city attorney said after a joint meeting with the courts, the police and the public works department, a procedure has been established for issuing warnings first followed by fines for repeat offenders.
Wade added that the first offense is $250, the second is $500 and the third is $750. Each offense level carries the $50 court fee in addition to the fine.
The City of Rawlins has been under water restrictions since early March. Drought is part of the problem, but ongoing infrastructure issues and repairs have reduced stream flows by nearly half from the municipal water sources south of town.
The water treatment plan is receiving about 1.5 million gallons of water a day. According to city data, community-wide water usage was running between 1.5 million to over three million gallons a day. With the system straining to keep up with demand, city officials are looking to the strict enforcement measures to curb violators.
Councilman Chris Weisenberg appealed to residents to follow the regulations for the benefit of the entire city.
According to a report authored by the city, last summer residents were consuming four to six million gallons of water a day between Rawlins and Sinclair. The two communities share the same water system, and both suffered when it failed earlier this year.
With consumption this summer cut by half or more at times, revenues to the city from water bills are also expected to decrease. Councilman Weisenberg calculated the losses during Tuesday night’s meeting.
City Manager Sean Metcalf said the Weisenberg’s estimate of $150,000 in lost water revenues was within reason. Mayor Terry Weickum agreed.
The city manager said a rate increase coming later this year might make up some of the loss.
According to a report out this week from City Hall, two staff members are reviewing water usage data for excessive use while two others are in the field monitoring for violators of the restrictions.
During public comments, resident Tanya Lumen, said the fines should be adjudicated fairly with any enforcement actions made public.
The city is also working with the court on alternative public service in lieu of cash fines. When the water storage tanks dropped below 50 percent of capacity two weeks ago, the city stopped irrigating parks, the cemetery and other green spaces for one week. The City of Rawlins has resumed watering, but at half of the previous rate. Levels in the tanks have rebounded, reaching between 85 and 95 percent during the first few days of August.