Monticello implements emergency water rates
by Eric Niven
The Monticello City Council meeting was the place to be on June 12. A crowded audience waited patiently for the Council to get through the nuts and bolts of the City’s operation before the main event: water – particularly secondary water.
The result is new secondary water rates that may shock high water users after the rates are implemented beginning June 27.
Unless changes are made, the resident who used the largest amount of secondary water in May would see their monthly water bill increase from $141.50 to $4,665.
Public Works Director, Nathan Langston began the meeting with an overview of Monticello’s dire water situation resulting from the severe drought in which the City finds itself.
He reported that though there has been no water collected from mountain runoff this year, statistically Loyds Lake has sufficient water for the year if residents stick to the base volume of 10,000 gallons of secondary water use per month. But Langston said if the drought continues, even that level may be restricted.
Loyds Lake is at 40 percent of capacity after pumping 35 million gallons to City ponds. Current water intake is at 30 percent of average. Culinary use is at 80 percent and current secondary use is 100 percent of average.
Langston presented reports showing extravagant use of secondary water with a two-page list of residents who are using from 40,000 to nearly 100,000 gallons of water per month.
At this point, the meeting transformed into a free-for-all of questions and comments from the audience, beginning with the concern that more affluent citizens might be willing to pay higher rates because they are more concerned with keeping their yards green and healthy than about the penalty of higher costs.
This was discussed because if the drought continues, the water penalty revenue will not replenish the limited resource.
Another concern raised by the audience was how the City will address the water shortage now and in the future, water use at the golf course, the amount of water pumped into the system from ground wells, ensuring that only residents be permitted to purchase water from the fire station culinary outlet, the fate of those who continue to abuse the system by using more than 40,000 gallons per month, leaking systems, evaporation, and even the use of culinary water to supplement secondary water.
The Council emphasized that the City Water Department has been proactive in attempting to develop new water sources, managing existing resources, and monitoring usage.
It was reported that the golf course has already reduced its water usage and will reduce it another 20 percent, and the cemetery and City parks are also reducing usage.
To encourage water conservation and limit abuses of the secondary water system, the City Council decided to define a “water emergency” and assess monetary payment and penalties accordingly, including a possible shut-off penalty.
Beginning with a meter reading on June 27 that will be reflected on August statements, up to 10,999 gallons are still included in the base rate of $20 per month.
Residents will be assessed $2 every 1,000 gallons from 11,000 to 20,999 gallons of use, $10 every 1,000 gallons from 21,000 to 30,999 gallons, $50 every 1,000 gallons from 31,000 to 50,999 gallons, and $75 every 1,000 gallons for 51,000 gallons and up.
In one example, a resident who currently uses 50,000 gallons of secondary water per month would see their bill increase from $101 to $1,140.
Monticello City Manager Doug Wright expressed that with the new rates, the City is addressing water conservation more than attempting to recover costs due to lower usage.
Council members all voiced their opinions. Councilman George Rice expressed the need to set a level when the city will no longer pump from Loyds Lake for secondary purposes.
He stated penalties need to be designated for continuous excessive users and that emergency rates must be established for both culinary as well as secondary water usage.
Councilman Nathan Chamberlain questioned whether the City has the manpower to enforce water restrictions. The City can only assess water usage over full billing cycles.
As a result, emergency rates to limit usage and penalize excessive users won’t take effect until the next billing cycle, which occurs in August.
The Council also decided to implement similar restrictions on culinary water usage during the next Council meeting once Council members have had a chance to review usage statistics.
Lastly, the Council questioned what the city would do, even for culinary water, should there be a mechanical failure at Loyds Lake. Langston said the City would have about 30 days of water.
The City is beginning an extensive information campaign using social media, the newspaper, and door-to-door flyers to make residents aware of the new emergency water rates, their current secondary water usage, and even offer assistance in refining their water usage.
For more information and updates, visit monticelloutah.org, the City Facebook page, or call 435-587-2271.
Once the discussion on water concluded, the room basically emptied, but there was other business to handle. The Council voted to adopt Certified Tax Rates proposed by the state and rejected a proposal by UDOT to buy the old Pro Shop instead of leasing it under the current arrangement.
Additional topics of discussion before the Council included Planning Commission priorities, enforcing City ordinances regarding livestock within City limits, refining and broadcasting future “Free Dump Days” through a voucher system to reduce non-resident abuse, and limiting unrestricted use of lights at the ballpark.
It was also reported that the City is being penalized by the County for individuals who are illegal dumping unapproved items into Monticello City dumpsters at the transfer station.