Sunnyside increases water rates
Amid merger negotiations with East Carbon, the prospect of continually decreasing tax revenues and water consumption worries, Sunnyside City voted unanimously to increase both residential and industrial water and sewer rates at a special town session on May 28.
According to Sunnyside Mayor Doug Parsons, increased revenues are needed following a decrease in tax payments from the city's largest entity, Sunnyside Cogeneration. Parsons explained that Permanent Community Impact Board officials had recommended the increase as a way for Sunnyside to gather the needed income to make its bond payments.
Sunnyside residents will see an overall $10 increase on their monthly utility bills. Water base rates were increased by $4 with residents now receiving 7,000 gallons as a base instead of 8,000. City sewer base rates were also raised by $6.
Industrial clients received a percentage increase, dictated by the amount of water used. As an example, Sunnyside Cogeneration will now pay $3,276.00 for the first 375,000 gallons they use instead of $2,520 for the first 450,000 gallons. The plant will also pay a dollar more for every additional thousand used while retaining their contracted 15 percent discount on the total.
The city's second largest industrial client, the Carbon School District, also saw an increase, moving from $280 for the first 50,000 gallons to $313.60 for 45,000.
"Will this be enough?" asked Sunnyside Council member Shari Madrid after the council approved the increase. The city will have to wait and see, was an answer provided by Mayor Parsons, as town officials will make their bond payments and then see how much tax revenue they lose throughout 2013.
The Sunnyside council was informed by Cogeneration personnel this spring that the plant would seek to have their tax burden re-evaluated every year, most likely meaning an annual decrease in tax revenue for the city. The city was ordered to pay back $78,000 in 2013 for 2011-2012 tax season.
The city's water worries currently extend beyond revenue, as drought conditions have brought the power plant's water consumption into view. The flow used by the plant is monitored by Sunnyside maintenance employees. While the plant has reported using approximately 150 gallons per minute of late, Sunnyside officials commented that they have asked additional water experts to monitor the flow. There are questions within the council about whether or not the current meter can handle and correctly report the water being taken in.
Water consumption, tax revenue and bond payments are all increasingly important as Sunnyside and its sister city East Carbon are currently working to detail their assets and debts in order to move forward with merger plans. City holdings must be provided when the towns come together to hash out exactly how a city merger would look. Sunnyside has completed their town audit and report significant aggravation that East Carbon has not.
"You're dragging your feet now," said Mayor Parsons to East Carbon council member David Maggio, who attended the Sunnyside council session. "It's been how many months and you haven't passed your resolution yet? You were pushing us because we weren't going to have it done. We will see if you get it passed."
Maggio told Parsons that East Carbon officials had another council session before June and would have the motion to merge the towns passed. However, lack of attendance at the May 28 session caused the meeting to be canceled. Additionally, East Carbon officials contend that there is no need to pass a resolution until a specific merger plan has been formulated.
The issue of merger will most likely be decided by town residents in November. However, the growing water problems facing both cities will have to be dealt with individually until the people speak.