The Payson Town Council on Thursday will consider a 10 percent increase in water rates, about half the rate increase included in the “worst case scenario.”
The first big water rate increase in more than six years headlines a council agenda that includes a decision on the award of a contract to build a million-dollar fire station, impose a
5 percent hotel room tax, ease drainage requirements for small lots, start planning for a $20,000 Fourth of July celebration and figure out what to do as a result of the early retirement of the town attorney, as part of a budget-cutting incentive package.
The slimmed down request for a boost in the town’s water rates comes after weeks of study and discussion that had focused on Assistant Public Works Director Buzz Walker’s initial push for a 20 percent increase.
Walker argued that the Town had used millions in accumulated reserves in recent years, mostly to cover initial costs for the Blue Ridge Reservoir pipeline. Although the water department still has some $7.5 million in reserves for capital improvements, Walker said the town needs the rate increase to not only hold onto the money needed for Blue Ridge, but to accumulate another $10 million to upgrade aging water mains. (See story, page 5A).
However, several critics of a big initial increase in water rates argued that the council should phase in any increase, to avoid driving up costs for businesses and residents during the economic downturn.
The council resolution published this week as part of the agenda packet envisions a much smaller rate increase. The proposal would boost the minimum monthly charge from $19.65 to $21.71 per month, a roughly 10 percent increase. Rates would then rise with usage, as they do now.
They would top out at $5.53 per 1,000 gallons above 20,000 gallons a month, a roughly 10 percent increase.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the earlier 20 percent upper limit was a “worst case scenario.”
Once the council settles on an immediate increase, it will likely discuss coming up with a schedule in the course of the summer to implement smaller, regular rate increases in future years.