CB council approves significant rate hike for water and sewer bills

Looking for ways to give a break to seniors living in town

[ by Mark Reaman ]

In an effort to give a little financial break to senior citizens living in Crested Butte, the town council asked staff to look at the best way to give those older than 65 that have lived in their Crested Butte house at least 10 years a break on their water and sewer fees. The effort comes as the council approved a 20-percent hike in the monthly water and sewer bills at the October 18 council meeting given the anticipated projects needed to keep the water flowing the toilets flushing in town.

The rate increase will add $14.50 to the town’s base rate that is set for an 1,800 square foot home in Crested Butte. While the average water and sewer bill is currently $71.50 it will go up 20 percent to $86 starting January 1, 2022. In a memo to council, town finance director Rob Zillioux said, “town will need to invest $11.2 million during 2022 and 2023 for wastewater plant improvements, a water main replacement and the Irwin (Lake) pipe project among other things.”

Zillioux said he had received some requests for a break on the bill from people living on fixed incomes. Councilmember Mallika Magner said she thought the requests were for senior citizens living in town.

“To keep the middle class living in town is a challenge given constantly rising costs,” Magner said.

Mayor Jim Schmidt liked the idea and suggested it be tied to people that have lived in their home for at least ten years. He also suggested freezing the fee for them at the current 2021 rates.

Councilman Chris Haver wanted to make sure the discount would go to people who actually needed it and not a billionaire living in Crested Butte. “Maybe it is something that a resident has to apply for,” he said. “That might deter those who don’t really need it from applying.”

“I don’t think we have that many people 65 years old or older living in town,” said Magner. “People tend to move away after a while at that age. I think it would be a pretty small pool of residents.”

Town manager Dara MacDonald said staff could flesh out the details and come back to council with a proposal. She said council should expect to see an increase on residential trash collection bills of 3 to 5 percent starting next year as well.

Councilmember Jasmine Whelan suggested that perhaps financial assistance be available for older residents interested in the Green Deed program that improves energy efficiency in their home.

Councilmember Jason MacMillan agreed that having “a more holistic discussion to help those in need is appropriate.”

Long-time Crested Butte resident Sue Navy told the council that maintaining age diversity in town was important and taking action to make it more affordable for such residents was a good move.

Whelan said the 20-percent rate hike was needed for the upcoming water and sewer projects and the rest of the council agreed and voted unanimously for the new rate increase.

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