Wellington residents decried the recent water and sewer rate increases imposed by Price River Water Improvement District at last Wednesday's city council meeting.
The Wellington City Council opened the April 9 meeting with a public hearing on the fees before passing an ordinance that will raise single family home rates for water by $3 and $4 for sewer.
Councilmembers explained that PRWID voted to increase its fees effective April 1.
"Why is it that PRWID doesn't have a mandate to live within a certain budget?" Fred Tatton, a resident, asked. "People need to get up in arms to force them to stay within the budget."
The action taken by Wellington's council brings the basic culinary water rate up from $37.13 to $40.13 a month for a single family unit and sewer fees from $18.75 to $22.75.
However, the actual amount of each water bill varies dependent on usage with the lowest charge being $1.84 additional for zero to 10,000 gallons per month.
Tatton told the council he was not at the meeting to protest the increases he said he just wanted to know who PRWID answers to.
The councilmembers had no answer for Tatton's question.
Wellington's ordinance came a week after Helper's council voted to increase the city's sewer fees by $2 to offset the PRWID hikes.
The water district instituted the rate hikes after months of discussion about how to dig PRWID out from under $12 million in bond debt.
At PRWID's March 18 public hearing on the proposed change in fees the district's water plant manager told the audience that low wages have affected employee retention and that the aging equipment and infrastructure poses increasing challenges.
In addition, the district has found itself without the financial reserves mandated by the lenders who provided the bonds for district upgrades.
The district had been encouraged to raise rates a couple of years ago to address the bond debt, but had opted to keep that increase to a minimum, according to PRWID administration.
Faced with stagnating property tax revenues and steadily rising price tags for everything from equipment to freight charges and chemicals added to impending bond payments, PRWID boardmembers made the move to bring fees up.
The majority of residents present at the March 18 hearing represented the unincorporated areas of Carbon County and many expressed the opinion that they were carrying the brunt of the costs for maintaining the district. They questioned the varying fee structure applied to themselves and to residents of cities.
The board explained at that time that Price, Wellington and Helper were responsible for the maintenance of their own lines and the costs that were passed on to residents for the maintenance were determined by each jurisdiction.
However despite the explanations, the residents at the Wellington hearing expressed concern that the fee hikes might be a runaway train that would just continue once it started.
"They have gone hog wild and will do anything that they want to," one resident said.