Commissioners consolidate tiny system, lower water rate |

Commissioners consolidate tiny system, lower water rate

by Sheila Gardner

Tears were traded for applause Thursday as Douglas County commissioners consolidated the tiny Sunrise Estates water system with East Valley, and rescinded a 319 percent rate hike residents said would cost them their homes.

“Please put us back in East Valley,” said homeowner Carol Brundige. “The rates you passed on Sept. 2 are extremely harmful to the 31 homes and four businesses. Please put yourselves in our shoes.”

On Sept. 2, some Sunrise customers were in tears as they told the board the rate hike would be a burden they couldn’t carry.

On Thursday the board voted unanimously to add Sunrise Estates and the Fairgrounds to the East Valley system which has 1,800 customers.

The consolidation of the Valley’s largest and smallest systems means East Valley customers’ rates will go up about $7 a month.

For the next two months, Sunrise Estates customers will pay an average of $189 until the new rate of $58.19 takes effect in December.

The new rates must be advertised for 30 days before adoption set for Dec. 2.

Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer said the new rates would be retroactive to Dec. 1.

Driving the rate increase for the Sunrise Estates-Fairgrounds water system is an arsenic problem that will require a $2.5 million pipeline. While the county plans to use grants and cash reserves to build the pipeline, there’s a possibility that bond proceeds might be used.

Resident Tammy DeGiovanni said the small community couldn’t support the skyrocketing rate hike as first adopted.

“I hope you’ll vote in December to put us back in with East Valley so I’ll quit yelling at my kids to get out of the shower because it’s costing us a lot of money,” DeGiovanni said.

No one spoke Thursday in protest of the change.

“Is there anyone one who would not pay up to $7 a month to keep 31 people from losing our homes?” Brundige asked.

After the vote, Sunrise homeowners thanked board members for adopting the new rates.

“Thanks for listening to us,” said homeowner Mike Wiley.