Talon News - Good Local News

By Debbie Israel
TALON 

CITY RESPONDS TO RATE CONCERNS

Another workshop scheduled for May 8, 5:30 pm

 

April 28, 2017

In response to Ms. Diana Mesch's letter and comments to the Aztec City Commission about the proposed utility rate changes, City Manager, Josh Ray, took one question at a time and tried to cover all her concerns.

Ms. Mesch's first question was "How do you propose the majority of Aztec citizens to pay for such increases?" Mr. Ray's reply - "We don't try to tell people how to spend their money, but we do try to create a fair rate for everyone. We haven't had a rate increase for the past seven years." He said the increases might be bigger now because of waiting.

The second question was "Each utility bill for many, many years, has had a $2.50 fee solely to help pay for the $11 million sewer plant What has happened to that money?" Ray's answer - "The city received a loan from NMED, but the $2.50 fee added in 2008 was not intended to be the sole source of funding to repay that loan. The city financed $5 million at 2% interest, over a 20 year term. The first payment was made in May of 2010. No payments have been missed. The payments are $305,783.59."

Question number three, "A rate impact study was done at the time we built the sewer plant to make sure the utility rates were sufficient over the years to pay for the loan of the new sewer plant. These figures must be printed for the public to see. Have they been followed by this city manager?" Ray said, "The City has never completed a utility cost of service study, but there have been internal discussions about the cost of services in the city. During those discussions, commissioners elected not to increase rates at that time." He also said the current proposals look at the cost of delivering utilities to customers and maintaining those systems. The costs include capital needs and operating expenses. "We have reduced staff, included more telemetry, made our systems more efficient," he said, which has saved the city money.

Question number four was, "What is the total amount available in the Joint Utility Fund. Ray's answer, "We have a $5.975 million cash balance. That pays for operation, maintenance, debt, capital improvements and power to get the utilities to customers." He said the electric fund has to have $8 million for FY 21-22 to build the new substation and transmission lines. "That account currently has $4.781 million, so we are going to have to make that account grow."

City commissioners and staff are still working on the plan for the rates, and Ray encouraged everyone to contact him, or commissioners, with comments. Email addresses and phone numbers are included on the city's website, or on page four of this paper. There will also be one more workshop, held on Monday, May 8, at 5:30 pm, in the Commission Room at City Hall. The meeting will be open for public comment and everyone is invited.

 

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