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PAWSD establishes new fee schedule

A new schedule of fees and charges was approved by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors during their Tuesday meeting.

Fees and rates are calculated on a per equivalent unit basis. Some of the methods were questioned by Director Roy Vega, with similar questions asked by other board members concerning the best ways to base fees.

The updated in-district service charges are as follows: water service charge — $14.50; water volume charge for use of 1,000–8,000 gallons — $4.50 per thousand gallons; 8,001-20,000 gallons — $9 per thousand gallons; over 20,000 gallons — $11.30 per thousand gallons.

A per-month wastewater service charge of $27 will be in effect, up from $23.

System Capital Investment fees are as follows: water system — $2,658 per EU; wastewater system — $1,017; raw water acquisition fee — $1,959.

The price of potable water at fill stations was raised to $.75 per 100 gallons. The wastewater hauler charge was raised to $3 per 100 gallons and the treated tanker charge was raised $1 to $10 per thousand gallons.

All of the rates but the System Capital Investment fees (effective April 1 and 11), go into effect June 1.

Vega questioned the current and old charge for raw water per thousand gallons, noting they are more than $3 over the cost for treated water. Vega asked why anyone would pay the rate and why the fee was set up as such — why raw water would cost PAWSD more than treated water? Operations manager Gene Tautges agreed to research the matter further for next meeting. No decision was made Tuesday regarding the raw water charges questioned by Vega.

District Manager Ed Winton gave an update on the water leak detection and repair program. Before his recent arrival at the district, there was no valve exercising program or asset management program. The valve exerciser has been purchased and Winton would like to begin a two-person internship program this summer, as well as to have two permanent staff dedicated to water leak detection and repair. Winton summarized his program as, “Boots on the ground, technology and metering,” a combination he hopes the district can use to reach a level of 20 percent loss in three to five years.

After discussion, board chair Steve Hartvigsen said shooting for 15 percent water loss was a good place to start, with emphasis placed on seeing a downward trend in water loss.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

• President of Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County Jim Vierbicher and Executive Director Cindy Galabota spoke on behalf of low income housing agencies, imploring the district to continue to help construction projects by either waiving fees, partially or completely, or allowing amortization of the water resource fee, and the water and wastewater capital investment fee. Viebicher said that $5,634 is a considerable amount when the organization, “does everything it can to keep down the cost,” including using volunteer labor. “Look at it as a donation to provide affordable housing, not as subsidies,” Vierbicher said.

Director Allan Bunch commended the efforts of Habitat for Humanity, calling it “one of the better affordable housing agencies.” He was not convinced, however, that government agencies should waive fees. “You are asking us to give rate and taxpayers’ money … to give someone else’s money away, and I don’t do it easily at all. Sorry.”

Clinkenbeard added that if PAWSD subsidizes a house, the ratepayers have to make up the difference. “Somebody has to pay,” she said.

The discussion moved to the possibility of amortizing fees. Vega noted that with the current interest rate, it would benefit habitat families to take out a low-interest loan, rather than pay an amortized amount at a higher interest rate. Vierbicher indicated he understood the board’s policy, agreeing that a homeowner’s loan would be more beneficial to families.

The resolution to repeal district policy concerning partial waiver or amortization, leaving the option for developers with more than three EUs to request amortization, was passed with only Director Windsor Chacey giving a nay vote.

• A location for the greenhouse biosolids plant was chosen primarily to avoid the potential liability with customer traffic in the central shop and wastewater plant area and, also, for aesthetic reasons. Tautges said a common public concern was that of reflection off the greenhouse roof, which both he and Winton assured would not be a problem. The greenhouse location is toward the back of the PAWSD Lyn Avenue property, mostly out of view.

• The Water Supply Community Work Group (WSCWG) gave its final report, with the main concern being PAWSD’s way of calculating and reporting water loss.

The report reiterated that water loss has been a key problem since 2001 and urged that an outside water loss consulting service be brought in.

The formula the group proposed to be used in calculating and reporting water loss is total treated water minus total water sold, divided by total treated water. At the end of the presentation, John Ramberg, the report editor, held up PAWSD’s current spreadsheet for calculating water loss calling it “Sin City,” highlighting the column titled “15 percent of water sold assumed water loss” and “known water loss.”

“If it’s known, then fix it,” Ramberg said.

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