Sanitation district tweaks sewer rates

Local businesses will get relief

The Cortez Sanitation District will provide temporary relief to dozens of local businesses that saw sewer rates spike 100 percent or more this year.

Gunther Hardt, owner of Plaza Laundry on Main Street, was one of three CSD customers to voice opposition at a rate adjustment public hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 20. His sewer rates increased by about 70 percent, meaning he would not be eligible for any relief under the adopted resolution.

“Everybody gets a break, or nobody gets a break,” Hardt told board members.

Formed in 1953, the special district has been mismanaged over the last 15 years, Hardt said, citing the district’s 2006 treatment facility was $1 million over budget.

“You need to dissolve the district, and get rid of it,” Hardt said. “Hand it back over to the city.”

The CSD resolution states it is “fair, equitable and in the public interest to limit any rate increase to 100 percent in any one calendar year.” Teresa Wlodyka, owner of the Tomahawk Lodge on South Broadway, is among 54 customers to be impacted by the resolution. Rate changes should be reflected in September bills.

“I don’t like the proposal, but it is some relief,” said Wlodyka.

The hotel owner, who saw her bill spike nearly 400 percent, was the sole voice to support the measure at last week’s public hearing. She and other business owners have continuously requested assistance from the special district board since the new rates took effect in January.

In opposition to the resolution, business owner Lana Waters described the rate adjustment as “arbitrary and capricious.”

“I don’t think (the adjustment) is sound business practices,” she told the board.

Waters’ husband, David, was ousted off the board following a special district election this year. He was among the majority that voted last December to change the rate structure from consumption-based to 20-year national averages.

Residential customer Jodie Henley also spoke against the resolution, saying that her one-person household paid the same sewer rate as a six- or eight-person residence. The resolution does not address residential customers.

“When can I expect to see some relief?” she posed to the board.

CSD manager Tim Krebs said the adjusted rates could remain in effect for 12 months.

“The board can adjust rates at any time,” said Krebs. “We just wanted to give some relief to those who were affected above 100 percent.”

The resolution also states “rates being adjusted down are subject to up to another 100 percent per calendar year until their rates meet the current SFE schedule.” Krebs said that if a customer’s previous bill, for example, was $100 per month, the stipulation allows the board to increase the bill to $200 per month next year and even up to $400 per month the following year.

“The rates need to eventually meet the same rate schedule everyone else is being billed from,” said Krebs.

Approved by a 3-1 margin, the resolution is forecast to cost the district $68,589, but save business owners $56,628 and public entities $11,961. Board member John Stramel voted against the measure. Board member John Candelaria was absent from the public hearing.