Residents complain about new utility rates

by nathan oster

A trickle of dissent has begun trickling into Town Hall over the new utility rates.

One customer, Raelene Kelley, voiced her concerns during Monday’s meeting of the Greybull Town Council.

“You have no idea whatsoever how many disabled people live in this area,” said Kelley, who said her monthly bill from the town rose to $85.50, a $3.50 increase over her previous utility billings.   “I make 737 dollars a month on Social Security … $85.50 hits me hard — and there are many others in this town who are in my same position.”

Kelley said she’s very frugal and that the additional $3.50 may not seem like to much to some, but it is to her. She said she barely has enough money to put gas in her vehicle and begged the council to reconsider the increases. She urged the town to dip into its reserves to soften the blow.

Administrator/Finance Director Paul Thur explained that the rate increases stemmed from an independent analysis of the town’s rates and that they are needed to keep up with rising expenses in each of the enterprise funds.

He added that the money in reserve “is our way of being responsible for infrastructure,” in that it is there when the town needs it for major expenditures.

Thur added that the water and sewer portions of Kelley’s bill actually went down.

It was the sanitation component that contributed to the increase in her bill, he said.

“Why couldn’t you raise it by a dollar,” asked Kelley.

Mayor Myles Foley said the rates “are where they need to be right now.”

Kelley wasn’t the only town utility customer to question the new rates.

Bill and Marian VanGrinsven expressed concern about their bill. They own and operate Maid Marian’s Bed and Breakfast at the corner of Sixth Street and Third Avenue North.

When the town was setting its new sanitation rates, Thur said it grouped all the restaurants, motels and bed and breakfasts in the C-3 category, meaning commercial with three pickups per week.

The VanGrinsvens were adamant in their presentation to the council that they do not require three pickups per week and lobbied the town to drop them into the C-1 category, meaning commercial with one pickup per week.

The difference between the two is significant, as Thur said businesses in the C-3 category pay $69 per month for trash collections, while those in the C-1 category pay $33.50 per month for the one weekly collection. The latter actually represents a decrease from the rate the VanGrinsvens had been paying for trash collection. The council backed the VanGrinsvens, agreeing to drop their bed and breakfast into the C-1 category.

The VanGrinsvens also had questions about their “cottage” account, but Thur explained that they had been resolved.

Rodney Ross was the third person to speak, saying it felt “a little mercenary” for the town to be charging him for water, sewer, garbage and mosquito control for a house he owns that is currently unoccupied.

 

Chickens

April and Steve Brown asked the council last month to amend its ordinances to allow residents within town limits to keep a limited number of “backyard chickens” on their properties — and the council is moving toward doing just that.

Kent Richins, the town attorney, presented the ordinance that is on the books in Powell for the council’s review. Admitting he’s no expert in chickens, Richins said Powell’s ordinance is “fairly restrictive” but “comprehensive.”

In Powell, residents cannot have more than four chickens, they must all be hens, no slaughtering is allowed within town limits, covered enclosures are required and chickens can only be kept in backyards.

Council members liked the ordinance, but suggested raising the allowable number to five.

Steve Brown, who was once again in attendance along with his wife, suggested that the town set the chicken registration fee at a level higher than $5, which was the council’s preference. One reason is because of the additional burden chickens will place on the police department, which includes animal control. Plus, “five dollars, for a lot of people, is almost throwaway money,” he said. Brown suggested setting it at $20 to $25 so potential chicken owners have “some skin in the game” and will take the responsibility of raising chickens seriously.

Councilman Clay Collingwood said, “I understand what you’re saying, but there’s only a certain number of people who are going to want to try this. We want to make it as easy to do as possible.”

 

Other business

In other town business discussed April 12:

  • The council discussed issues at the leaf and branch pile with people illegally dumping furniture and construction materials. GPD Chief Bill Brenner was directed to look into the feasibility of installing security cameras at the pit.
  • A water tap application for White Line Real Estate, which is purchasing land in the new business park on Greybull River Road, was approved, upon the recommendation of Public Works Director Dalen Davis.
  • The council endorsed a plan to purchase break-away bases and a temporary, movable pitching mound for the baseball fields in the Art Schutte Sports Complex. The council also gave authorization to Ken Wright, representing the South Big Horn Little League, to construct a batting cage in the currently vacant corridor between the two baseball fields.