Businesses’ water costs to increase if council approves measure |

Businesses’ water costs to increase if council approves measure

Blythe Terrell

Steamboat Springs resident Beth Watson washes her car Saturday afternoon. The City Council might approve increases to commercial and residential water rates, which could affect car wash prices.

— Steamboat Springs’ commercial water and wastewater rates are likely to increase along with residential rates.

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved a first reading last week of a measure that would increase rates for users of city water service. Commercial rates will increase 50 percent if the council approves the change after a second reading Nov. 18, Public Works Director Philo Shelton said.

Business owners said the possible increase was a source of concern.

Bob Rundell owns Big O Tires, Fuel Stop, and Grease Monkey and its accompanying car wash. Higher water rates could lead to higher prices at the car wash, he said.

“We haven’t increased the cost for probably three years,” Rundell said. “That was due to an increase in soap prices. Those have been fairly stable; now, the other option’s going up.”

Car wash costs essentially depend on soap and water costs, he said.

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“The ingredients are pretty simple,” Rundell said.

Higher water fees also could hit restaurants hard, Azteca Taqueria owner Jim Ruggiero said.

“That’s certainly a concern, especially for a restaurant, a place that uses a lot of water,” Ruggiero said. “That’ll be another increase to look at next year.”

But if other costs drop, the situation might not be so gloomy, he said.

“Maybe with the cost of oil and food moderating a little bit, maybe that will even out,” Ruggiero said.

The city plans to increase fees because its water coffers are shrinking. Rates haven’t increased for 15 years, and the department has been subsidizing its operating budget with tap fees, officials said last week.

Those tap fees are meant to go toward costs including capital improvements and debt service on system expansions, not operating costs, said Bob Litzau, the city’s assistant finance director.

“It’s unfortunate this wasn’t done in smaller increments in the last five to 10 years, but unfortunately it wasn’t, so going forward, we kind of need to make up for what we didn’t do,” Litzau said.

Commercial water fees make up a smaller piece of the city’s water income than residential water fees, Litzau said. Wastewater income for residential users is three times what it is for commercial, he said. For water, residential makes up about 65 percent of the income; commercial makes up 35 percent, he said.

The City Council, city manager, finance director and public works director bear the responsibility of making sure the water income is solid, Litzau said. The proposed increase is necessary to keep the water systems in good condition, he said.

“We have to work to keep it up to standards, so when you turn on a tap you get the water, and when you flush the toilet, it flushes,” he said. “So, this is the minimum we need to get to that.”

The increase affects only city water customers, not those served by the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District.

Shelton said city water customers should consider cutting down on usage.

“I think any, both commercial and residential customers, they should look at doing some conservation measures,” Shelton said. “That would help soften the blow of any rate increases. We kind of expect that will occur.”

Business owners said they would consider conservation.

“We do recycle part of the water, that kind of thing, so that helps,” Rundell said, referring to his car wash. “But we’ve always done that since the day we built it. That was just a feature of the car wash.”

Riggio’s Ristorante owner Richard Most said a fee increase probably would increase his business expenses.

“If the cost got prohibitive to doing business, we’d have to start looking at conserving our water, for sure,” Most said.

Proposed rate changes



Monthly base charge: $12.95

Charge per 1,000 gallons: $2.78

Proposed for 2009:

Monthly base charge: $19.50

Charge per 1,000 gallons: $4.17



Monthly base charge: $15.71

Charge per 1,000 gallons: $3.31

Proposed for 2009:

Monthly base charge: $23.61

Charge per 1,000 gallons: $4.97