The increases are for culinary water, sewer and garbage rates. Changes in the secondary water rates will be considered in 2014.
City Manager Greg Westfall said that the enterprise accounts, which fund the city utility efforts, are not generating enough revenue to fund depreciation. As a result, they are not keeping up with the long term needs for the aging city utility infrastructure.
Westfall said that city general liability insurance rates are increasing as a result of the aging sewer infrastructure. The proposed increase would allow the city to better keep up with infrastructure needs. The total increase of approximately $70,000 is tied to the current annual depreciation.
In the public hearing portion of the meeting, city resident Bob Turri said that he is strongly opposed to tax increases or to any increases in fees.
Turri said that the city must do what “the rest of us are forced to do: sacrifice where necessary, make do with what you have, and stay within your current funding because the well is dry.”
He encouraged the city to do the best they can do with the current funding and wait until better times to make an increase.
City resident Scott Pehrson said that it is time for the city to implement some fiscal “austerity measure.” He said that it is a bigger issue than just the depreciation in the city enterprise funds.
After the public hearing, Councilman Scott Shakespeare said that the city has been responsible, “We have cut back wages, cut back insurance, we haven’t splurged on anything.”
Councilman Craig Leavitt said that the city can save all the depreciation it wants, but it can be spent by a future council. He added that rate increases can always be sold as the need to fund depreciation.
Councilman Brad Randall said that city bills have increased over 70 percent in the past eight years and said that the city does not need to raise bills any more.
As options were discussed to implement an increase, the council favored a small increase in the base rate and larger increases for larger users. This would keep the increase smaller for home owners.
The approved increase, which has an estimated $70 per year impact for the average home, is based upon sewer use of 5,000 gallons a month.
The sanitation fee increase is five percent.
Councilmen Shakespeare, Young and Frost approved the increase, while Councilmen Randall and Leavitt opposed the increase.
It is the final meeting for Leavitt and Randall, who will leave office on January 1. They will be replaced by newly-elected council members Steve Duke and George Rice.
One of the first orders of business in 2014 will be to replace Tim Young on the city council. Young will become the mayor, leaving an open spot on the city council.
Westfall said that applicants for the open spot will be accepted beginning in January, with a January 9 deadline. The new councilman will be selected at the January 14 council meeting.
A public hearing was held to finalize the funding for a community center at the Hideout Golf Club and a project at the Monticello Airport. The proposal is to issue revenue bonds for the projects. Bids for both projects will be received in coming weeks.
The airport project includes construction of a wildlife fence, equipment building, pilots building, water well, and more.
Westfall said that 94.5 percent of the airport project is funded by other sources, including the Federal Aviation Administration, Utah Community Impact Board (CIB), and Utah Department of Transportation.
The Community Center project includes construction of a building that will be available for community functions and also will serve as the golf course clubhouse. This project is funded primarily by grants and loans from the CIB.
Long-term debt for the projects is from a $520,000 loan from the CIB for the Community Center. City officials said that the debt will be paid from the General Fund, with an expectation that there will additional revenue coming from the use of the Community Center.
Scott Pehrson expressed concern about the cumulative impact of the large number of zero-interest loans that have funded recent city projects.
Pehrson expressed a fear that the City of Monticello is “a miniature version of the United States and I am concerned that we are headed down the same path.” He added that “pretty soon, you are going to run out of other people’s money.”
In other matters at the December 10 City Council meeting, the Council approved RL Wilcox to be named Citizen of the Year. Wilcox was presented with the award on December 16.
The council approved a priority list for future CIB projects. Cody Richards was appointed to the city economic development committee.
With a 3-2 vote, a motion was approved to approve a $6,000 expenditure to participate in a website to promote local hiking, biking and ATV trails. Of the total, $2,500 would come from city budgets and the remainder from transient room tax funds through San Juan County.
The city purchased a .44-acre parcel of ground on the Hideout Golf Club from the Government Services Agency (GSA) for $2,000. Until a recent survey, the city was not aware that they didn’t own the property, which has been used at the golf course for the past 50 years.
The council approved, by a 4-0 vote, to move forward on the possible annexation of a home owned by Councilman Scott Frost into city limits. Frost lived in the home during the summer months. It is adjacent to city limits near the sewer treatment ponds.
A 30-day comment period will be followed by a decision period. If approved, the annexation could not be finalized until February. Frost did not vote.
Crews continue to work on a new water well into the Navajo sandstone at the Hideout Golf Club.Westfall reports that a preliminary well was drilled 1,500 feet deep and a larger eight-inch well extends an estimated 1,300 feet below the surface.
The quality of the water, or the pumping capacity, will not be known until after the well work is complete. City officials hope that the water can be pumped directly into the city culinary water system.
If the water is not eligible for culinary use, the well water will be pumped in the 24-inch irrigation line and will be used for secondary purposes.