Friday, October 19, 2007

Hailey sewer rate change takes effect

Rate based on usage seen as more equitable

Express Staff Writer

Although it became effective at the beginning of August, many Hailey residents are just starting to note a change in their sewer bills.

In the October edition of Hailey's "Our Town" newsletter, water users were told that sewer rates are now being based on winter domestic water usage, rather than the previous fixed rate.

"This means you pay for what you use," City Engineer Tom Hellen said this week. "It's a much more equitable way of charging users."

Hellen said that before the change, charges were calculated by taking into account the city's budget and the number of users. This came to $29.24 per user last year, an amount that included $5.64 for the city's sewer bond. Now, the charge will be based on what a user consumed the previous winter, when no water is being used for irrigation, and the sewer rate will be set according to individual consumption.

"It's around 50-50 for those that will be charged above or below the old rate," Hellen said, explaining that sewer rates have been increasing by approximately 5 percent for the last five years.

He said that the base rate for new homes or those without data from last winter was set at $35.83, the cost for 6,000 gallons, which the city determined was the average winter water use.

This figure will also be used for consumers who live in Old Hailey and have to run water during the winter to keep their pipes from freezing. Hellen said that the city will look at such users on a case-by-case basis.

"We're kind of stuck between wanting to encourage conservation and not wanting pipes to freeze."

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