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PRWID raises fees for water, sewer connections on new construction

Sun Advocate associate editor

There will be a significant hike in what new homes and businesses have to pay to hook up to sewer and water service in Carbon County - but that increase is not as much as it could have been.

The Price River Water Improvement District Tuesday voted on the following increases, which will become effective in 90 days:

*Hookups to the culinary water system, which now are $400 for retail and wholesale customers, will to to $2,500.

*Sewer connections will go from the current $725 wholesale to $852. Retail connections will increase from $800 to $1,250.

A retail customer is one who hooks up directly to PRWID water or sewer. Wholesale customers are those who live in cities with their own water and sewer departments, such as Price, Helper and Wellington.

The reason for the increase, in the words of board chairman Richard Tatton, is to "meet our responsibility to our current customers" and prevent a subsidy of new connections.

Those new hookups represent a growing demand for water and sewer services, which in turn lead to increased costs for water and sewage treatment.

If the new customers do not pay high enough connection fees, then the additional cost must be borne by all customers.

These so-called impact fees may only be spent on capital improvements, explained general manager Jeff Richens. They will not be spent on routine maintenance and treatment, which would amount to keeping regular monthly rates artificially low.

There was much back-and-forth discussion about issues of fairness to both new and current customers. Board member Keith Cox, for instance, was leery about adding to the cost of new construction in the county. He also noted that current rates include the adoption of radio-read meters. Since new homes and buildings must install these on their own, then pay for everyone else's through monthly rates, it did not seem fair.

Wellington mayor Ben Blackburn, also reluctant to raise the impact fees, nevertheless said he saw the need. When Wellington went before the Community Impact Board to get emergency funds for sewer repair, that board would not grant the full amount.

The CIB determined that Wellington rates were too low, meaning that city residents were not carrying their own weight financially.

Noting that PRWID and the cities in Carbon County depend so much on CIB funding, board member Steve Rigby said the increase in impact fees for water and sewer will demonstrate good faith in keeping the district's finances in order.

None of the increases were at the maximum calculated by the district's rate consultants. The high end of the impact fees could have been $3,035 for water and $1,535 for sewer.

However, board members were reluctant to go that high on either.

In addition to the fee for connecting to culinary water on the PRWID system, customers must also provide a water share or its equivalent to the district.

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