Riverton rates to increase; The council increased water rates by five per cent

A 2017 study by independent consultants on the City of Riverton’s utility rates recommended a three percent annual increase to ensure sufficient funding to maintain the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure. But City Councilman Mike Bailey said three percent isn’t enough because the city is lagging behind in the funding it needs.

City Finance Director Mia Harris said last year $2.2 million in capital improvement items were taken from the water fund budget and $1.8 million was cut from the wastewater budget because the city didn’t have the funds to do the work. Bailey said it would be “fiscally irresponsible not to fix the water system because we are way behind in our ability to keep up with maintenance needs.”

Instead, Bailey recommended a five percent increase. “We have to at least match the grants we’re asking for to fix the problems,” he said. Councilman Kyle Larson noted that the city’s infrastructure is 50 to 75 years old in places. “Our responsibility is to provide security, water and sanitation and pick up trash,” he said. “We need money to provide the services we are required to provide.”

Councilwoman Kristy Salisbury disagreed. “People are already hurting in the community. I think we should keep the rate hike at three percent.”

Instead of increasing revenue by some $80,000 with a three percent increase, the city would receive approximately $130,000 with a five percent increase.

“We have a huge need in the community to replace water pipes. We are behind the curve and we have to find a way to catch up,” Bailey said. “This is just a drop of what is needed. It is vitally important. We need to fix the (water) lines.”

As an example, Bailey noted a recent water main replacement next door to the Aspen Early Learning Center. “There were holes in that pipe that you could put your fist through,” he said. “We were losing 30 percent of the water through the leak.”

Mayor Tim Hancock said the numbers concern him. “I don’t want to pay more for water like everyone else in town,” he said. “With more inflation and cost increases, it would be difficult.” When the question was asked, however, Hancock voted overwhelmingly to raise the rate to five percent. Councilors Lindsey Cox and Salisbury voted against.

After the vote, Harris provided WyotodayMedia with a new chart that indicated how much users would pay with a five percent increase.

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