Town rate changes generating little input

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council on Monday held its first of three scheduled public meetings on proposed utility rate changes which, if approved, would result in some significant monthly increases for its customers.

No one from the public spoke during the public hearing, which started at 6:30 p.m., prior to the regular meeting commencing at 7 p.m. Only one person, longtime CPA Bruce Bergstrom, spoke when the rate increases came up during the meeting.

Bergstrom said that since he retired from his practice, his building in the 600 block of Greybull Avenue is occupied, but not by an active business. He questioned the fairness of the town’s proposed commercial sanitation rate.

As now proposed, it would jump from $33.75 per month to $68.13 per month for those businesses with Dumpsters that are emptied three times per week.

“I’d submit that my office, the law offices, our insurance agents, businesses like that … we hardly use those Dumpsters,” he said. “Maybe once a month (when I was in business), when my staff got after me to empty the wastebaskets. Now it’s more like once a year.”

Bergstrom said he’d be paying the same rate as active businesse.

“I’m not questioning the need for you to balance enterprise funds,” he said. “I audited those and I know how necessary that is. But when you look at a 15 percent increase in residential rates (from $22.50 to $29.37) and the increase (that is proposed) in commercial rates, I question who is bearing these costs.”

Clay Collingwood, the mayor pro tem and running the meeting in Myles Foley’s absence, admitted “sanitation is one of our more difficult funds because it’s hard to quantify. We know how much water you use and we can guess based on that how much sewer you use, but garbage is tough.

“But it’s also because it’s the hardest to control. Half of our sanitation funds goes to tipping fees.”

Monday’s hearing and meeting was the first of three opportunities that the town has scheduled for the public to comment on the proposed rate changes, which were recommended as part of an independent analysis of the town current rates and future funding needs.

A special meeting has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 27 to give residents a second chance.

A third and final opportunity will come prior to the Nov. 9 meeting of the council at 6:30 p.m.

“So far I’ve gotten one email,” said Administrator Paul Thur.

In a report last month, Thur said the rate study found that the town’s current rates are neither adequate to support the town’s enterprise funds nor fair, as the low volume users subsidize the high volume users.

Under the recommendations, the monthly water increase would range from 40 cents for those using less than 1,000 gallons of water to $14.33 for those at the uppermost tier who use between 10,000 and 10,999 gallons of water.

The recommendations for users of up to 10,999 gallons of water per month include flat fees for both trash ($29.37) and mosquito control ($1.50). Sewer rates would be based upon water usage, except when everyone is putting water on their lawns. During high water usage months (May through October), the sewer billing usage amount would be based on individual water consumption between November and April.

Even more so than residential customers, snowbirds and business owners would see sharp increases if the recommendations are approved.

The current snowbird/inactive minimum bill is $40, with only water debt service continuing while service is off. The new structure would charge sewer and trash minimums while service is off in addition to the water minimum. Thus, the minimum snowbird/inactive bill would be $56.23.

Business owners would also feel the effects. For three-times-per-week trash collections, the rate would go from the current $33.75 per month to $68.13 per month.

Everything in the new structure is based on water meter size only. The larger the meter, the higher the minimum for water and sewer. In trash, there is no distinction between commercial or residential.