By Karla Pomeroy

Worland City Council proceeds with 15 percent water rate increase


October 4, 2017

WORLAND — The Worland City Council approved a 15 percent increase in water rates on first reading Tuesday night. An ordinance to adjust rates requires three readings with the increase expected to go into effect Dec. 1 if it passes all three readings.

Four rate options were presented to the council Tuesday night, 10 percent, 12 percent, 14 percent and 15 percent.


At the Sept. 19 council meeting, auditor James Seckman, certified public accountant, recommended a water rate increase. At the September meeting he said, “One of the things that I want to update you on is that state statute actually requires that for a municipality that has a population over 5,000 people that it shows an operating income in each one of its enterprise funds (water, wastewater and sanitation).” He noted that city currently has had an operating loss in the water fund and has been operating with a loss over the past few years.

Operating expenses exceed revenues by $309,000. “One of the things that we’d like to do over the next two to three years is that we’d like to sure up that gap,” Seckman said.

He also noted that while revenues are at $1,756,000, they are down $17,000 from the previous year.

Seckman and City Treasurer Tracy Glanz recommended increases to the base and consumption rate. Current consumption rate is $8.62 for residential customers. Commercial and industrial customers have a varying base rate depending on average usage.

Consumption rate begins at $3.49 for the first 8,000 gallons for commercial and $2.83 for the first 4,000 gallons for residential.

At the 15 percent rate increase, residential consumers would see the base rate increase to $9.91 and the consumption rate at $3.25 for the first 4,000 gallons. Consumption rate for commercial consumers would be $4.01 for the first 8,000 gallons.

Glanz said at the September meeting that a typical resident per month in fall and winter would use about 4,000 gallons so the overall water cost would go from $19.94 per month to $22.91 or an increase of $2.97 under the 15 percent increase.

In a spread sheet for the council, Glanz noted that summer usage is higher so a resident using 66,000 gallons under a 15 percent rate would see an increase of $16.85 per month.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Attorney Kent Richins reiterated Seckman’s point on complying with state statute. “Essentially the law requires that we have rates capable of paying for all the expenses associated with the water system,” he said. “This is the only category of city utilities that we have this issue.”

He added that with every ordinance to increase water rates there are certain expenses including staff time and publication of notices. So piecemealing the necessary water rates to become compliant with state statute could cost the city more in the long run.

Mayor Jim Gill reminded the council that rates have not been raised since 2009.

Engineer Mike Donnell, of the city’s engineering firm Donnell & Allred, said he took a look at the consumer price index over the years since the last rate increase and found it up more than 16 percent. He said the recommended 15 percent is “not keeping up with inflation but would keep the auditor happy” and likely keep the water fund balanced for quite a while.

Council member Dennis Koch said he would favor one of the two middle rates, noting the council would be able to tell constituents that while they had to raise rates they didn’t go as far as they could.

He suggested going with 14 percent, to which council member Mike Neufer replied that it was only a difference of 20 cents from the 15 percent increase.

Council member Lisa Fernandez said, “The auditor recommends 15 percent.” She added if the city goes with less they may have to come back with another increase next year.

“I think we should go with the recommendation of the auditor. I move we pass Ordinance 844 at the 15 percent rate,” Fernandez said. Michele Rideout seconded the motion which carried on a 6-3 vote with Mandy Horath, Keith Gentzler and Koch opposed.

Second reading will be Oct. 17.


In other business Tuesday:

— Rachell Colvin of The Warehouse said The Warehouse and other liquor establishments were requesting three dates for unrestricted hours of alcohol sales.

The dates have been agreed upon by The Warehouse, Goose’s, Little Chief and Rendezvous. They are Oct. 28, Nov. 24 and New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31.

Police Chief Gabe Elliott said the dates are standard dates that have been allowed in the past.

The council approved the request unanimously.

—The council passed Ordinance 843, which increases the municipal court automation fee, on second reading.

—The council unanimously approved a motion to suspend 139 certification for the Worland Municipal Airport. Airport Manager Lynn Murdoch said the certification is required for commercial air service, which the city no longer has available. She said she and Mayor Gill visited with Federal Aviation Administration inspectors recently and the FAA wants a decision and was recommending the city surrender the certification.

If the city ever has the opportunity to bring back commercial air service they can obtain the certification again.

Murdoch said surrendering the certification would save the city about $10,000 due to certain requirements associated with the certification.

—Council member Keith Gentzler asked Chief Elliott that with the mass shooting in Las Vegas if the department had a sniper in the department, should the need arise.

Elliott said, “We take our training serious. We realize we are a small community. We train hard. All of our guys are held to a pretty high level of standards for all of their shooting, whether it’s pistol, rifle or less lethal, it’s taken serious. We also have an advanced team, our SWAT team, our tactical team. Those guys have specialized duties where you have strictly your engagement officers as well as your long-range snipers.”


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