Ordinances establishing water, sewer depreciation funds passes first reading
November 7, 2019
WORLAND — Nine members of the public attended and four spoke regarding the Worland City Council’s proposed rate increases for water and sewer customers outside the city limits.
The city is seeking to set up a depreciation reserve for major repair or replacement projects on water and sewer lines in several outlying areas. The city sent letters to 115 residents in Hillcrest, Packerville, Ponderosa and Anderson subdivisions; an additional 245 residents on West River Road, Sorensen Industrial area, and from the city limits to the east tank on Oct. 18.
The areas were separated due to difference in rate increases based on how far out the lines are from the city limits.
Letters for rate increases to set up a depreciation reserve fund for residents outside the city limits on city sewer were also mailed out Oct. 18, with 136 residents in Hillcrest, South Flat, Packerville, Sunset, Mountain View, Sorensen Industrial and Lane 14 receiving letters.
In the Oct. 15 meeting, City Attorney Kent Richins explained to the council that residents in the outlying areas had been in districts that had agreements with the city in order to obtain loans to install the lines to their respective areas. He said once the loans were paid off, per the agreements the city would take over ownership of those lines.
Most of the agreements ended years ago and some areas never had agreements.
On Tuesday, Worland Mayor Jim Gill said, “What we are addressing should have been addressed years ago. We’re not trying to put it to you as some have said, we are trying to establish a playing field that is fair to the city residents and to you in the outlying districts.”
For outlying residents currently on city sewer without a current agreement, the rate for the depreciation reserve would be $12.88 per month in addition to the base and usage charges.
For water users in Hillcrest, Packerville, Ponderosa and Anderson, the depreciation reserve rate would be $10.72 monthly. The city’s letter notes that Pondersa does still have a viable district.
For the residents in districts further away from the city, the rate would be $20.85.
Rates were established following a study by the city’s certified public accountant and auditor James Seckman.
After hearing comments and questions, the council approved on first reading an ordinance establishing the water rates for a depreciation reserve fund and another ordinance for the sewer rates.
The funds will be in separate accounts specified for those lines. Per the ordinances, the city will cover repairs under $17,000 for water lines and $12,000 for sewer lines.
The ordinances require three readings before they go into effect.
Jim Hinkle spoke on behalf of the group from the former West River Water District. He said he personally was not opposed to the proposal but had a few questions and the “biggest contention” was that at some point the West River Water District owned the pipeline and the city was to take it over. He said the Big Horn Regional Water District has been using the pipeline to transport water but West River is not receiving any compensation.
City Council member and Washakie Rural employee Mike Neufer said he was told that a board member had signed an agreement giving the regional water district access to the pipeline.
He said he would get a copy of the agreement for Hinkle.
Hinkle added, “We’re just asking to be treated fairly.”
Richins added that while the city was to take ownership and responsibility of the lines, and that they have been maintaining the lines, there was never any formal agreement for that ownership or responsibility.
“We need to formally say we’re taking over the lines, but for us to do that and be fair we need to set up the depreciation fund,” Richins said.
Bill Hill is a Mountain View district resident and said a 1983 agreement with the city and five sewer districts helped provide funding for the sewer lagoon. He said a depreciation fund was to be set up at that point, but should be set up for all water users.
“If you need to increase the depreciation fund do it, but assess it to everyone,” Hill said.
Richins noted that the difference between city limits and outlying areas is a density issue. In the city there are a lot more people paying for the lines and in the outlying areas there are fewer customers and it costs more to service lines outside the city limits.
Janeen Capshaw said she agreed with Hill that there should be uniform rates for everyone on the city water and sewer system, regardless of where they are located on the system.
Don Viktorin on Hillcrest said their district is still viable according to the Wyoming Department of Audit.
He added that the Bower Addition is using the Hillcrest line and their district did not receive any compensation.
Richins said there is ample time to make any changes if needed to the ordinance with the three readings required. He said he and the staff will research the questions that were posed at the meeting and answers should be available at the Nov. 19 meeting.