City headed to raise water rates 68 cents per month

 

 

Rio Rancho water users may see water bills a little higher starting this summer.

At their meeting Wednesday night at City Hall, city councilors voted 4-2 to approve the first of two readings to increase water rates by 1.75 percent each year for five years, starting July 1. According to city information, that means the average ratepayer will see a bill 68 cents per month higher the first year, up to $3.61 per month more in 2024.

Wastewater rates aren’t changing.

City Councilors Jim Owen and Jennifer Flor cast the dissenting votes without comment. Councilors Marlene Feuer, Dave Bency, Bob Tyler and Jeremy Lenentine voted for the raise.

“As you all realize,” Utilities Director Jim Chiasson told the governing body, “there have been no water or wastewater increases in three years.”

He said a consultant who conducted a rate study recommended a larger increase, he said, but the staff adjusted the proposal downward at the governing body’s request.

Chiasson said the increase was necessary to maintain the financial solvency of the water and wastewater utility to keep bond and loan costs down, maintain appropriate cash reserves, repair the system for reliable service and compensate for increasing costs of materials and services for the system.

Bency said he couldn’t support the increase unless the city continued fixing water lines.

“We have a lot of lines in neighborhoods exploding everywhere,” he said.

Chiasson said workers would continue fixing lines, prioritizing to get to the worst ones first.

A majority of governing body members must approve a second reading at a later meeting for the increase to take effect.

In other business, governing body members:

• Appointed Rebecca Martinez as the new city clerk on a 5-1 vote, with Tyler casting the dissenting vote without comment. Acting City Manager John Craig said Martinez has 15 years of relevant experience, including serving as the Rio Rancho Deputy City Clerk from 2005-12.

• Raised the corrections fee imposed by the municipal court from $30 to $50 to cover the costs of people arrested by city police being housed at Sandoval County Detention Center.

• Conducted public hearings on the budget and Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The governing body members will take final action on the budget after a second public hearing May 22. Both documents can be viewed at rrnm.gov/4370/Recommended-FY-20-Budget.

• Approved a Community EMS and interfacility transport enterprise fund for the Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department. Community EMS will provide home visits to help people who frequently call for medical services, and the transportation program will provide scheduled non-emergency medical transport.

Fire Chief Paul Bearce said insurance reimbursements would cover the costs if the department did two transports per day and about 15 home visits per week. The department will hire three new paramedics and one billing specialist for the programs.

• Approved a final reading of an ordinance authorizing a $12.2 million loan to buy water rights.

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