MV Council OKs wastewater rate increases

In other matters, outgoing city attorney questions process

MONTE VISTA — The Monte Vista City Council unanimously approved three years of wastewater rate increases that will see the base rates triple over that span.

Monte Vista Director of Public Works Rob Vance said the increase was needed to help pay down the loan for constructing a wastewater treatment plant. The city has applied for funding from USDA but does not know how much it will receive.

“We are still waiting for notice of funding from the USDA, but we also recognize the need to start with a rate increase in order to meet the upcoming debt that will be required to fund a new facility. In each meeting that has been held, we have had to stress that this new facility is not a want, but a requirement that we have to address.”

The first increase will begin with the June billing. Subsequent increases will take effect each June through 2024. According to the staff report, a “final adjustment” was likely when funding was known.

“We also discussed that the rate increases would take place over the next 3-4 years with the final adjustment to be made in the final year to reflect the exact cost after the full funding has been secured, including both grants and loan proceeds,” the staff report stated.

In January, the billing base was $18.39 for in city users and $20.40 for out of city with per 1,000 gallons usage at $3.90 in the city and $7.80 out of the city.

For the June billing, the base will rise to $30.65 in city and $34 out of city with usage rising to $4.60 in city and $9.20 out of city.

In June of 2023, the base rate for in city will be $42.91 and for out of city will be $47.60 with usage at $5.30 in city and $10.60 out of city.

June of 2024 will see an in city base rate of $55.17 and $61.20 for out of city with usage at $6 in city and $12 out of city.

Vance explained that the city held two public meetings prior to this meeting and at those meetings they talked about the reasons for the proposed rate increase. The city’s wastewater lagoons have not been able to adequately break down metals and the city has been out of metal limits compliance for just over a year.

The city has been working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to remedy the situation, but it became “abundantly clear that a new wastewater facility is necessary to meet the increased requirements set forth by both the EPA and the CDPHE,” according to the staff report.

In other matters during the May 19 meeting, the council thanked outgoing city attorney Michael Trujillo for his service. Trujillo cordially thanked the council and made it clear he did not agree with the process or the council’s decision to replace him with Eugene Farish. The vote by the council to hire Farish was 3-2.

Mayor Dale Becker presented Trujillo with a plaque. Trujillo was the city attorney for nearly five years.

“For the time that you provided your service I really appreciate what you have done, and I have a plaque here for you. Just a small token of appreciation. Thank you so much for everything,” Becker said.

Trujillo said he was proud of his work as city attorney, the highlight being the Outcalt Event and Conference at SLV Ski Hi Complex

“It is with mixed emotions that I leave here. I am very proud of my representation of the city,” Trujillo said. “The highlight really being the Ski Hi event center. I think that is going to put Monte on the map. I spent countless hours working with attorneys, bankers, and the City Manager, and all the folks on this project. I am going to leave the councils’ legal department in great shape I believe.”

According to Trujillo that was not the case when he was hired. He said he was hired after Farish was terminated by the council at that time and the city was staring at three or four different lawsuits that cost more than $350,000 to settle.

“Is that a big deal? I guess not,” Trujillo said. “That’s citizen’s money that could have been used somewhere else. It took us a couple of years to get all that litigation settled. I am not saying that it’s the city attorney’s fault, but when that culture is created within the system over several years, it’s your watch, and you have to pay attention. It took several years to clean this all up.”

Trujillo questioned the process. He said that the interview process yielded two interviews. He felt this should have taken place in public session and not executive session, so that people could voice their opinions.

Trujillo said that Councilor Larry Foster and Councilor Jason Lorenz were not at the second interview, yet they were still allowed to vote.

“I don’t think that’s cool. Councilor Lorenz has been on for five or six months and I think he was part of the council that terminated Eugene, and now he’s part of the council that is putting him back,” Trujillo said. “I think one should be consistent. I think that when something isn’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it.”

Trujillo concluded by thanking the city for allowing him to work with them and wished the city the best of luck.

Cheryl Santi, who has lived in Monte Vista for decades, said the council should reconsider its city attorney decision.

“I think you should all reconsider what you have thought of and move forward and not go backwards,” Santi said. “Just my opinion, but I think you should reconsider.”

The council also recognized National Police Week, National Public Works Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Professional Municipal Clerk’s Week, and Arbor Day.

Ken Hamko, of the OptiMystics Citizens Action Network, also spoke at the meeting. He said that two artisan bicycle racks would be placed in front of Rainbow’s End Thrift Store downtown and at the Monte Vista Skate Park on Park Avenue.

The next City Council meeting will be held on June 2.

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