PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would raise Pinedale residents’ water rates 25 percent in the coming year. It needs two more readings to take effect.
Ordinance 487 did not pass quickly, however, as multiple meeting attendees came to discuss and argue water rates and meters.
Council members discussed the issue of a rate hike, which will cost the average residence $30 per quarter and $10 per month, at length when the issue was introduced.
Recently reelected council member Nylla Kunard said she had “about six complaints” from residents saying, “they’d hate to see us raise it that much.”
“I understand the complaints,” Mayor Steve Smith responded. “I live in town, and I don’t want to see a 25 percent increase either. But I also understand that we have to pay for improvements, and I think the town residents should partner in helping pay for that.”
Town Attorney Ed Wood clarified the increase is not going toward improvements but is meant to meet a state statute that mandates towns water and sewer infrastructure is self-sustaining by resident-paid rates.
“And we’re not going to get there with this raise,” Wood added.
Pinedale water users currently pay for 13 percent of water services and 12 percent of sewer services, a water workshop revealed last month.
Kunard and council member Chris House agreed with resident sentiments against a raise but said they realized the necessity of the rate hikes.
“I’m on a fixed income, and I can see that we have to do something,” Kunard said.
“This thing’s hard for everybody,” House concurred.
Eventually, the conversation moved to water meters. Earlier in the meeting during the citizens’ comment period, two residents spoke about water meters, with one against their installation and another seemingly in favor.
The topic was not entered more in-depth until later in the meeting.
“It’s the cost of doing business,” council member Michael Kudar said. “We’re losing money. So if we’re not going to address it, why be in business? So we’ve got to go to everyone to get it. That’s why water meters are so important. We need to know how much water we’re using. It’s just logical.”
While some attendees pointed to the 17,000 acre-feet of water available in Fremont Lake, this great amount of water “doesn’t get the water to town,” Smith pointed out, referring to the infrastructure necessary to get water into homes and businesses.
Those against water meters generally spoke against charging $3,000 for meters per residence and business, but council members said they’re trying to offset that cost with loans and grants.
Smith pointed to a statistic, where Kunard, a single individual, paid a little less than half of what the car wash paid for water. This, the council members seemed to agree while approving the rate hike, is unfair.
Also at the meeting:
• The council approved a motion for Happy Endings Animal Rescue (HEAR) to house five to eight cats, and potentially some dogs, at a location on Fremont Avenue. Under the six-month conditional use permit, HEAR will need to keep a sanitary environment complete with hot and cold water and other amenities.
• Council members agreed to meet with members of the Sublette County Golf Committee and the Sublette County Board of Commissioners to discuss potentially building a new clubhouse. No figures for cost were presented.
• A contract was awarded to Cheney Construction for $36,325 to water plants around town.
• The council approved several motions for the Pinedale Public Works Department.
The town will purchase a $35,000 John Deere tractor for infield grooming at the Dudley Keys Ballfields. The tractor can be used in the winter for other purposes with attachments.
Bridger Mechanical will also be checking the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on town buildings for $3,200.
The final motion calls for Siemens to come fix an electrical problem that has cropped up periodically and cost the town anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 per month.
The motion is for a figure not to exceed $45,000. Kudar opposed the motion on the grounds that Siemens is merely “pretty sure” they can locate and fix the issue. The motion passed by majority vote.
• Planning and Zoning Administrator Kate Grimes presented two action items. Way-finding signs to help visitors locate parking or other amenities earned approval for $26,200, as did removing logs from the town park for $5,000.
• Cat Urbigkit and Sue Sommers will create a publication for the Town of Pinedale this year for an amount not to exceed $6,710.
• The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 29 at 5:30 p.m. The meeting was pushed back a day, as the regular schedule placed it on Memorial Day. For the complete article see the 05-18-2012 issue.
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