Frederick water rates jump 20.2 percent for the new year

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By Ben Wiebesiek

FREDERICK — The new year will introduce a new water rate for town residents.
    The 20.2-percent rate increase was approved Nov. 27. Trustee Rafer Burnham voted against the increase.
    Frederick water customers will see the new rate go into effect on the first water bill of the year.
    Town Manager Matt LeCerf said the changes to the water utility ordinance were significant but necessary.

    “Probably the most significant item, we have changed the rates but ... we have deleted the deposit that we’ve required,” LeCerf said. “Generally, what happens is after a year, that deposit is just credited to the account. What we plan to do going forward is actually file liens on properties to collect any lost revenue.”
    This approach would be more cost-effective for the town, LeCerf said.
    The Central Weld County Water District, which treats and provides water to Frederick, introduced a new method for calculating costs. This resulted in a 19-percent increase in the cost of the town’s potable water supply.
    LeCerf said the goal wasn’t to raise rates just to keep pace with other communities.
    “We see the value in being competitive. Business and residents look at where the ideal place to locate their families and businesses in a community,” LeCerf said.
    Before the vote, the trustees heard from Rafer Burnham’s wife, Maria, who said the rate increase doesn’t work for large families like her own.
    “I do think water conservation is important, and I do support that. We do live in a dry area, and it is important for us,” Burnham said. “But the previous way the surcharge was handled, our family hit that point that we needed the surcharge by August of this year. At that point, as I was using water, I would often think to myself, ‘this water is costing me more money than it did a few months ago, or what my neighbors are having to pay.’”
    Although the surcharge was later dropped, Burnham said the new tiered-rate program would have a similar effect.
    “It’s frustrating because this is not like going to the grocery store, where you can say, ‘Should I buy steak or hamburger, and I’ll cut back and just get hamburger this time,’” Burnham said. “But when I’m choosing between showering, doing dishes or laundry, there’s really not a lot of things I can cut out of my life.”
    According to a memo LeCerf submitted to the trustees, a water rate study in 2010 resulted in three rate proposals.
    “Working through the finances of these options, the final suggestions were increasing the rates at either 13.9 percent, 20.2 percent, or 26.0 percent,” the memo read.
    When designing the proposed rate structures, town staff included the first 3,000 gallons of water used within the base rate.
    Frederick previously raised water rates in 2005. LeCerf said many other communities have raised rates incrementally.
    “This hits a lot of homes directly. We’ve kind of gotten behind the ball, I think,” LeCerf said. “We’re trying to right the ship so we can move forward.”