Sewer rates more than double for 10 percent of Cortez businesses

About 1 in 10 local businesses have seen their sewer rates increase by 100 percent or more this year, generating nearly $140,000 in added revenues for the Cortez Sanitation District.

According to the CSD, 54 businesses relying on the special district’s services have seen their rates surge 100 to 400 percent in 2014. More than half of those increased from 100 to 150 percent; more than a fifth saw their rates rise from 150 to 200 percent; less than a tenth of rates rose between 200 and 250 percent; nearly 6 percent increased between 250 and 300 percent; more than 7 percent spiked from 300 to 350 percent; and the remaining 4 percent saw hikes greater than 350 percent.

According to CSD records, annual revenues from the 54 impacted businesses totaled $82,287 last year. Those same companies are projected to pay $220,602 in sewer rates this year, an increase of nearly 170 percent.

Seeking relief since the new rates took effect in January, Teresa Wlodyka again asked CSD board members on Monday, July 14, to provide some type of assistance. Owner of the Tomahawk Lodge on South Broadway, Wlodyka’s annual sewer rates spiked from just under $700 last year to nearly $3,500 this year, an uptick of 395 percent. She accused the elected board of dragging its feet.

“You told me last month that you would help,” she told CSD officials. “You’re postponing a decision again.”

Wlodyka’s frustrations bubbled over when CSD board member Jim Candelaria said not a single district customer attended last year’s budget meetings when the rate hikes were proposed. She then showed board members the only notice she received, an insert included in her January bill, which stated “most of our customers will not see any increase in their monthly bill.”

“My rates went up 400 percent,” she said. “That’s not fair.”

Newly elected board member Ray Fox said the district’s revenues couldn’t be changed mid-fiscal year, adding the budget had already been adopted. After a lengthy discussion, board members directed district manager Tim Krebs to seek legal advice on two proposals to help alleviate bottom line concerns of the impacted businesses.

One solution, recommended by Krebs in March but dismissed, would provide hotels an across the board 25 percent discount to try and restore rates to historic levels to provide owners some relief during the off-season. The other possible resolution would be to temporarily return rates based on consumption for the 54 commercial customers impacted by 100 percent or more.

The CSD will consider both options at a special called meeting on July 24.

Protesting the rate hikes since March, Knight’s Inn owner James Parks also pleaded with board members for a stopgap measure on Monday, adding he would provide the CSD with his historical consumption-based sewer rates if they opted to adjust fees for the hardest hit customers.

“Thank you for trying,” he told the board.

Of CSD’s total 4,400 customers, approximately 500 are commercial clients.