Palisade agrees to sewer-rate hike

The Palisade Town Board agreed Tuesday night to impose a 25 percent increase on sewer fees, the first in a series of rate hikes that will help fund the replacement of the town’s sewer treatment plant.

Trustees voted 6-1 — Mayor Dave Walker cast the dissenting vote — to raise the single-family residential bill $5 a month from $20.37 to $25.37. Bills for multifamily and commercial customers will go up by a similar percentage. The rate increase takes effect Sept. 1.

The money will pay off a $4 million loan the town received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environmental Program, which distributes money to rural areas to improve water and wastewater infrastructure. In addition to the loan, the town received a $3.8 million grant from the same program.

All of the money, along with $755,000 of the town’s own money, will be used for the construction of a lift station and three-mile pipeline that will hook into Clifton Sanitation District’s new treatment plant. Palisade’s lagoons can’t remove enough ammonia from wastewater before it’s discharged back into the Colorado River to comply with new federal standards.

Town officials have estimated that single-family residential sewer bills will eventually reach $50 a month in order to generate enough revenue to pay off the loan. Acting on a recommendation from a town resident, the town decided to raise rates incrementally rather than in one fell swoop.

“We’re trying to anticipate costs on the new plant and stepping this up so that we don’t hit people all at once with a significant cost increase, so $5 is a good first step,” Town Administrator Tim Sarmo said prior to Tuesday night’s meeting.

Walker said without the $3.8 million grant, sewer customers likely would have faced a monthly bill of more than $100.

“This would have been a really scary proposition for the town,” he said.

Construction on the pipeline should begin before the end of the year.


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