The cost of sewer and water services in Grantsville City will increase, after the city council approved a change of rates during its meeting Wednesday night.
The increase in the city’s water rate is the first since 1996; the sewer rate was last raised in 2014.
Residential water users currently pay $15 for the first 7,000 gallons used, then 70 cents for each additional 1,000 gallons. The residential rate approved by the city council is now a base rate of $20.40, with the first 10,000 gallons billed at 50 cents per 1,000 gallons.
The rate increases to $1 per 1,000 gallons from 10,001 gallons to 30,000 gallons. The price per 1,000 gallons increases to $1.50 for usage of 30,001 to 50,000 gallons, and $2 for every 1,000 gallons above 50,000 gallons used.
A residential user who uses 8,000 gallons per month pays $15.70 under current water rates. Under the water rates passed Wednesday night, the user would pay $24.40 for the same usage.
The city’s monthly residential sewer user fee will increase $3 to $28. The base fee for commercial users will rise to $25 from $20, with the commercial usage fee rising 25 cents to $1.75.
Several Grantsville residents attended the meeting Wednesday and spoke out against the increase in water and sewer rates.
Shane Ekins said his household of seven and landscaping needs could be stressed by the higher water rates.
“I lived in West Valley for 18 years and never paid this much for water ever in my life,” Ekins said. “It’s crazy.”
Steven Merrill said he was upset by the increase in water rates being put onto current users all at once.
“I understand that money doesn’t come from thin air and the city has to grow,” Merrill said. “… To me, I think those numbers are a bit on the high side.”
The water rate increase includes an annual increase of up to 2 percent each year, which will be reviewed by the city council during the budget process each year. Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall said the city council can determine to implement the increase or not every year.
“It’s already built in so we don’t have to go through this fiasco again,” Marshall said.
The city has been investigating a change to its water rates since 2016, when a change to state law required municipal water providers have an increasing water rate structure to encourage water conservation.
Marshall cited the city’s Main Street water and sewer project, which is expected to cost as much as $8 million, as a reason for the rate increases. In addition to the deteriorating condition of water and sewer lines, Utah Department of Transportation will place a three-year moratorium on digging up Main Street after it reconstructs the roadway in 2019.
Marshall said the water and sewer lines under Main Street are cast iron in a variety of sizes and most were installed at least 70 years ago.
“This is the opportunity that we have to be able to fix something that is deteriorating and is constantly a maintenance nightmare,” he said.
The city also plans to redrill the North Well, which has a deteriorating casing and dropping water levels. The redrill project is expected to cost more than $1 million.
In addition to major projects, Grantsville City Finance Director Sherrie Broadbent said the city’s cost for electricity, labor, pipes and other utility necessities has risen since water rates were last raised more than 20 years ago.
“Everything is costing us more than it did in 1996,” Broadbent said.
Councilman Tom Tripp said the kind of increase in water rates shows the city has been subsidizing water costs in the city’s general budget.
“Now we’re saying we’re going to avoid a general tax increase for water and make the people who are using more water pick up the slack,” Tripp said. “… What it’s doing right now is it’s putting the water costs back on the water user, rather than the general public who may not be using that much water.”
Despite the rate increases passing unanimously, city council members said the changes were well-researched and difficult to make.
“I just want everybody to know, we do not take this lightly,” said City Councilman Scott Stice. “Raising rates, raising taxes, is a serious thing. We have to look at what the reasoning is, if we’re going too much or not enough.”
City Councilwoman Krista Sparks said a potential failing of the Main Street line would be trouble for everyone in the city, but she had heartache over the increase.
“This is a tough one,” Sparks said. “We’re going to pay the same rate as well. We’re not immune to the rates.”
City Councilman Neil Critchlow said the city council is very conservative in its approach to the city’s finances.
“We are tightwads most of the time,” Critchlow said. “We have to do certain things to keep our city flowing the way that it’s supposed to.”