Friday, February 13, 2009

Stagecoach Water & Sewer Fees - 375% Increase

Stagecoach water, sewer fees skyrocket
Tap charges increase from $8,000 to $30,000
By Melinda Dudley (Contact)

Steamboat Springs — Water and sewer tap fees in the Morrison Creek Met­­ropolitan Water and Sanitation District, which serves Stage­coach, took a leap from $8,000 to $30,000 at the beginning of the year. The fees now are by far the largest flat-rate tap fees in Routt County.

The 375-percent increase in tap fees was determined necessary by the water district’s board in December, after a comprehensive rate study, board chairman Donald Alperti said. The decision was driven by Stagecoach’s aging water plant, he said.

“We eventually need to think about either replacing our plant or remodeling it,” Alperti said, noting that the district’s plant is 30 years old.

Stagecoach’s tap fees now are 10 times those for a new single-family home in Yampa. In the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, which calculates tap fees on a point system, only fees for the largest homes and duplexes exceed $20,000, General Manager Jay Gallagher said.

The increase came as a bit of a surprise to the real estate development community, and it certainly has raised concerns, said Jim Walters, broker associate with Prudential Steamboat Realty. Walters owns land in Stagecoach, and he has been involved with marketing for the Neighborhoods at Youngs Peak and Coyote Run subdivisions.

“Especially in a down market where people are looking for reduced building costs … I think that’ll have a big impact on whether they decide to build,” Walters said. “It may not be a concern as much right now, just because I think development has slowed down to almost zero. … But it could prevent people from going that route in the future.”

Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District’s tap fees go into its capital fund, 20 percent of which is reserved for replacing or renovating the plant, Alperti said.

The recent economic downturn and accompanying drop-off in construction, however, has hampered the district’s ability to begin putting the desired funds aside.

“All of this started before the big slowdown,” Alperti said. “It would be nice if there was some (new) development.”

Alperti said he was unaware of any new tap fees being paid since they increased Jan. 1. District Manager Steve Colby was out of the office Thursday and unavailable for comment.

The water district’s board conducted a rate hearing for the tap fees on Dec. 11 and accepted the increases at its regular meeting later that month, said district office manager Donna Wylie.

Changes to the district’s water rates and billing structure also went into effect Jan. 1, she said. The water district used to bill quarterly, with a $30 base rate, and has gone to bimonthly billing with a $21.60 base rate.

By the numbers
Water and sewer tap fees across Routt County

■ Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District:

$18,000 water, $12,000 sewer $30,000 total

■ Town of Oak Creek:

$6,000 water, $5,000 sewer $11,000 total

■ Town of Yampa:

$1,500 water, $1,500 sewer $3,000 total

The city of Steamboat Springs, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District and Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District all assign tap fees based on each individual construction project, assigning points for characteristics such as square footage and fixtures including sinks, toilets and dishwashers.

Using the point scheme, a typical 2,500 square-foot home would be charged just more than $7,200 in tap fees, according to one estimate from Mount Werner Water. That estimate presumes the home includes a kitchen, two-and-a-half bathrooms, dishwasher, washing machine and two water spigots. Tap fees for the district’s largest homes and duplexes can exceed $20,000, according to Mount Werner Water General Manager Jay Gallagher.


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