Fruita shifts sewer rate formula for commercial users
The city of Fruita will change the way it bills commercial customers for sewer service, but it remains to be seen which businesses will bear the brunt of the cost for a new sewer treatment plant.
The City Council agreed Tuesday night to switch from a formula-based billing system for the city’s 153 commercial customers to one that assesses rates based on water consumption. Council members postponed a vote on the actual rates, giving themselves more time to consider six pricing options and receive feedback from businesses.
City officials are under a federal mandate to build a new $28 million sewer plant and estimate they need $2.6 million annually to operate the facility, a cost that must be borne by the ratepayers.
City Manager Clint Kinney said the switch to a consumption-based billing system is the most equitable way to assess customers’ impacts on the sewer system and bill them accordingly. Business owners who testified before the council Tuesday night agreed but argued that the costs will be so exorbitant that they risk going out of business, and that the charges will not be a true reflection of how much water enters the system and is treated at the plant.
Under the original proposal considered by the council, 63 percent of the city’s businesses would have seen their bills remain the same or drop. The 37 percent whose bills would increase would be the largest water consumers, such as motels, convenience stores and car washes.
Sherry Brown, co-owner of Go-Fer Foods, 106 S. Park Square, asked the council whether the convenience store would receive compensation for water that doesn’t drain into the sewer system. She noted that much of the water used by Go-Fer Foods is turned into ice for soft drinks and coolers.
City leaders said it’s possible to install individual meters to measure the actual amount of water entering the system. But they indicated businesses would have to cover that expense.
Several council members said they sympathize with businesses that will be hardest hit by the rate increase and admitted they’re struggling with how best to spread out the burden for paying for the sewer plant.
Like businesses, residents will see an increase to the base rate on their sewer bills. But the council has yet to decide whether residents will be charged based on water consumption.
The council will discuss commercial sewer rates again during its June 7 meeting.