Water bills could rise in Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Water bills could rise in Vail Valley

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

Water bills could rise

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – A plan to boost water bills in Avon and other parts of Colorado’s Vail Valley met with pointed questions from town council this week.

The Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority wants to up the base fee homes and businesses pay for water.

The hike would amount to an extra $3.91 per month in the water bill for a home 3,000 square feet or smaller, and more for bigger homes, said Becky Bultemeier, customer and financial services manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Avon isn’t the only place facing the proposed water bill increases. It would apply to all areas the water authority serves, including the Arrowhead, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Berry Creek and Beaver Creek metropolitan districts, Bultemeier said.

The water authority had been hoping to get consent from those areas before formally voting on the change Oct. 22, she said.

But Avon officials weren’t so quick to sign off.

Bultemeier said the water bill increase is necessary to pay for some $20 million worth of improvements to the water system.

Yet Avon council members wanted to know how much of those improvements projects were geared toward handling growth, Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe said.

The concern: costs associated with growth would be passed off onto existing residents instead of being factored into impact fees new homes pay, he said.

However, Bultemeier said growth is not driving improvements to the water system. That work is needed to fund maintenance, meet new federal water quality standards and provide water during droughts, she said.

“If these were growth-related projects we would want growth to pay for them and we would be building them into tap fees,” she said.

Avon councilman Dave Dantas said that when the town faced a budget shortfall, it cut positions. He wanted to know if the water authority has cut or frozen any staff positions in an effort to avoid asking for a water bill increase.

Bultemeier said the water authority hasn’t cut any staff positions but employs the smallest staff possible to still provide clean water. She said the authority made deep cuts to its improvement projects list, and agreed to show council a detailed budget.

Avon council members also asked whether the water authority could hold off on the improvement projects. But Todd Fessenden, water division manager for Eagle River Water and Sanitation, said the authority wants to move ahead with meeting federal water quality standards that go into effect in 2013.

“We would like a year or two ahead of that to have the treatment process and quality locked down,” he said.

If the authority fails to meet those standards, it has to send notification to water users, warning them about health risks like cancer and nervous system disorders, he said.

“We’ve seen it happen before and it’s devastating to the community because people lose confidence,” Fessenden said.

Avon council plans to vote on the water bill increase at its next meeting, Wolfe said.

“We want to be a prudent representative of our constituents and just test this a little more,” he said. “I think this will probably work out in the end and we’re probably going to approve it.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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