February 6, 2024 |
Photo – Water faucet – Courtesy IStock
Residents of Rawlins should expect to pay significantly more for water in the future.
Every year, Rawlins officials must review the prices charged by the city for utilities and services.
During the January 30th special work session, City Manager Tom Sarvey reviewed the city’s water rates with the council. Sarvey said over the past five years, the water fund has lost approximately $1.2 million.
Sarvey said continued depreciation of the city’s water infrastructure is outpacing the money brought in through fees. The city manager said if they don’t find a way to increase capital, the city will be unable to afford to maintain its water system.
Sarvey said recent calculations show that the city will need to spend roughly $2.6 million to upgrade and maintain its existing water system. The city manager said at the current rate, the water fund will be $1 million short.
According to Sarvey’s calculations, the city will need the additional $1 million every year for at least the next ten years.
In November of 2022, the Rawlins city council voted 5-2 to double the residential water rate. Speaking at the January 30th special work session, City Manager Sarvey said the water fee needs to be increased by at least another 20%.
Vice Mayor Steve Sanger said a 20% rate increase would not be enough to keep the city’s water infrastructure operational. When asked by Vice Mayor Sanger, Sarvey said the water rates would need to increase by an additional 54% to cover future projects.
Public Works Director Cody Dill said he is worried that the city’s water infrastructure will fail without a large influx of cash. Mayor Terry Weickum said the city must pay for decades of deferred maintenance. Mayor Weickum said even with a 54% rate increase, Rawlins will still offer lower priced water than most of the state.
Mayor Weickum said he recommends raising the rate as much as needed to upgrade and maintain the city’s water infrastructure. The mayor said the rate increase may be painful, but the council must act to ensure the city has enough water for the future.
Councilwoman Tonya Lewman said another large rate increase will have a negative effect on low-income residents. Councilwoman Lewman recommended holding a town hall meeting to explain the reasoning behind the rate hike and offer support to people who may need assistance paying their water bill.
Mayor Weickum said he supports offering assistance to low-income residents. However, the mayor said a large water rate increase is needed to avoid a repeat of the 2022 water system catastrophe. Mayor Weickum said the city needs to show it can help itself before receiving outside help.
City Manager Sarvey said he’ll do more research to determine exactly how much of a water rate increase will be needed to address the concerns of the council.