Residents in Bayfield could be paying more for water and sewer service in 2023.
After the town did not raise water and sewer rates in 2020 and 2021, the fund used to operate those services is in the red, Town Manager Katie Sickles said during a Bayfield Town Board work session Tuesday discussing an increase in rates.
With a proposed 15% increase, single-family homes would pay about $34.87 monthly for water rates, according to a memo from Sickles. The current rate is $30.32 per month.
The town studied water and sewer rates in 2018, recommending a 3% annual increase. But during the pandemic, the town didn’t raise rates, leading to the shortfall, Sickles said.
If sewer rates are increased 15%, the monthly cost will be about $65.45, compared with the current rate of $56.91.
Also, water rates above the 6,000 gallons per month in the base rate will increase by 25% to curb excess water use and promote conservation, Sickles wrote.
“The 15% rate increase may appear huge, however lack of rate changes over the two pandemic years have not yielded the revenue needed to stay current,” she wrote.
Town trustees said the rates need to be increased, and both trustees and staff members need to be prepared to answer complaints about the rate hikes.
Residents will particularly question the sewer rate increase of about $8 per month, said Trustee Lori Zazarro.
The draft town budget will be released in mid-October.
After Tuesday’s budget session, the board started its regular meeting, approving an agreement with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office to assign Lt. Brandon Tisher to serve as the town’s interim marshal.
Longtime marshal Joe McIntyre announced his retirement in August after 27 years in law enforcement, working for the past decade in Bayfield.
The town is hiring a recruitment firm to find candidates for the permanent position.
In other action, the board approved leasing the old middle school gym in downtown Bayfield through June 2023 for town use for parks and recreation activities, including basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer this winter. The lease from the Bayfield School District will cost $550 per month.
The next town board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20.