Douglas OKs water system consolidation |

Douglas OKs water system consolidation

by Griffin Rogers

Customers of the Cave Rock-Uppaway, Skyland and Zephyr water companies will pay $96.61 a month starting in July, under a consolidation plan approved by Douglas County commissioners on Thursday.

That rate will go up $4 a year until it reaches $113.02 a month in 2019. The plan includes phasing out more than $100,000 in annual subsidies to the water companies.

The three companies' existing debt will also be consolidated, a proposal that was narrowly approved by commissioners with Lee Bonner and Barry Penzel voting against the plan.

Throughout the meeting, there was standing room only as many water customers in the Skyland and Zephyr utility districts voiced their opposition to some of the changes.

"I don't think that we all mind so much consolidation," Marla Bay resident Piper Smith said, "as long as everyone pays their fair share."

Smith and other Zephyr system customers were against the idea of taking the other water systems's existing debt — specifically Cave Rock, which has higher debt and operational costs.

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Now that commissioners have approved the changes, Cave Rock's existing monthly base rate of $202 will drop to about $96. Zephyr's monthly base rate will increase from $80 to $96.

Without consolidation, monthly water rates in Cave Rock would have increased from $202 to $244.

Commissioner Nancy McDermid said hard decisions have to be made.

"Someone over here is happy. Someone over here is not happy," she said. "That's the nature of a lot of the decisions in the public realm."

Water bills in the three utility systems may rise even more when proposed capital improvement work is finalized.

Commissioners directed staff to complete a preliminary engineering report and bring back a financing plan for future capital improvements. They also requested that staff look into the use of water meters.

Early estimates show that installing water meters at all three systems could cost about $3 million.

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