The Payson Council Thursday approved a 10 percent hike in water rates and a 5 percent increase in the hotel bed tax in a jam-packed three-hour meeting.
Moreover, the council also officially repealed a 250 unit-per-year limit on new homes on a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Ed Blair casting the sole dissenting vote.
The water rate discussion took up the bulk of the meeting, with a long presentation by Dan Jackson, a water rate consultant. Jackson supported an immediate 10 percent rate increase, which will increase the water bill of the average resident from about $27 a month to roughly $30 per month.
After discussion, the council unanimously approved the increase, but boosted the increase to 20 percent for people who use more than 20,000 gallons annually. The average Payson water user consumes about 5,000 gallons a month. Jackson said water rates have been increasing an average of 5-6 percent annually for a decade — about double the overall rate of inflation. However, Payson hasn’t raised rates since 2003. The town has been using almost $1 million annual from its reserves for the past several years to cover the water department’s operating costs, said Jackson.
Leon Keddington appealed to the council to put off the rate increase until it can complete a more thorough study of water needs and the impact of the Blue Ridge Reservoir pipeline — which will cost $30 million to construct but will then significant reduce operating costs by lower energy needs.