The City of Blanding is considering a change that may significantly alter the way that water rates are determined.
At the March 26 meeting of the Blanding City Council, Economic Development Director Pratt Redd led a discussion about water rates in Blanding with the question, “How do we brace the community for a structural change in our water rates?”
“This could be a significant change for some people,” said Redd. “This is a progressive system that may save money for some people and may cost high users quite a bit more.”
“It is completely inevitable that some people will be furious,” he added.
Redd explained that 60 area residents responded to a recent Facebook survey that measured their perceptions on water issues.
City Finance Director Kim Palmer said, “The goal of the survey is to get out there ahead of this and have an idea of what they are thinking now. Maybe we can head off problems when we make the change.”
The survey found that there is confusion about where the water comes from, and that many residents do not understand the water bill or how the rates are determined.
Redd said the survey showed that nearly all city residents are concerned about protecting the city water resource.
Mayor Joe B. Lyman said, “We need to let people know how they can accomplish what they want to do, which is to protect the water resource.”
We need to educate the community. This is not a rate increase, it is a rate structure change to promote water conservation now.”
Redd said that the city will provide information to city residents on how to conserve water.
“People need to know that adjusting their sprinkler system can have a huge impact,” said Redd. “While washing your hands quicker really has little impact.”
City Manager Jeremy Redd said that he hopes to send letters to those who will be impacted the most by the change.
Redd explained, “They should be made aware that if they use the same amount of water in July, 2019 as they did in July, 2018, the rate will change dramatically.”
In other matters, the cost to connect new construction projects into the Blanding water and sewer system could increase after a report was presented to the Council.
Kayson Shurtz, of Hansen Allen and Luce, discussed an analysis of the city impact fees. The study was required by the Department of Water Quality, which helped fund the current sewer system project.
An impact fee is the charge to connect a new project into an existing system.
The study found that the city could charge up to $1,130 for a water connection and $1,463 for a sewer connection.
The current impact fees for Blanding City are $600 for a water connection and $250 for a sewer connection. The fees have not changed in more than 20 years.
Whether or not the city increases the current impact fees, Blanding residents will continue to pay lower rates and impact fees that other areas in the state.
The Blanding systems were largely built and upgraded through grants and low interest loans. As a result, the fees are significantly lower than in other cities.
Shurtz said it would cost $25 million each to replace the current culinary water and sewer systems. If the systems were to be rebuilt with conventional lending practices, the impact fee for a water connection would be up to $12,000.
Schurtz said that the total impact fees for utility services in most areas of the state can exceed $20,000 for a new home.
He said the impact fees for most cities are the maximum allowed charge.
“Most cities are not like Blanding,” said Shurtz. “They are looking to get all the funding they can get.”
Mayor Joe B. Lyman said, “People need to know what value they are getting from their partnership with the city.”
Shurtz said that Blanding has capacity for 500 more homes on the existing systems.
There will be significant public process before any fee changes are made.
In other matters, Halle Black, the community outreach officer for the National Honor Society at San Juan High School, requested $450 from the city for the community Easter egg hunt. The city council approved $500.
The council briefly discussed the monthly water report and financial status. The February water report showed 17.6 inches of water. City Engineer Terry Ekker notes there has been an additional nine inches of water since that time.
Kim Palmer answered questions about administrative expenses and airport terminal repairs. She notes it is time to start working on the yearly budget.