In a surprise decision, the Parker Water and Sanitation District voted to postpone an increase in water rates that was approved just more than two weeks ago.
The district board passed a resolution Jan. 8 to rescind the implementation of a 20 percent increase in water rates and flat service fees. The five board members approved the hike Dec. 22 in the face of heavy public opposition, but now want to wait until the conclusion of a water-rate study later this year before making any further decisions. A work group made up of district staff, town officials, homeowner's association leaders and Parker water customers will help guide the study by researching all possible options to help defray the rising costs of day-to-day operations.
"We need to improve our communication and involve the public more in district policy making," said Jason Mumm, Parker water district board treasurer. "The public working group will be a first step."
Mumm said the reversal of the previous decision shows the board has listened to the public and their opinions about the controversial increase, which would have raised the average monthly cost of water rates, sewer service fees and water service fees by roughly $11. Tap fees charged to developers who connect the the water and sewer system also were increased.
The changes took effect Jan. 1, but the board now says the 2008 rates will remain in effect until the study results are released.
Opponents to the water rate and fee increases said they felt they did not have a voice in the decision and requested a deduction in the proposed hikes. District manager Frank Jaeger cut an original proposed budget that would have increased costs by 28 percent before presenting the final 20 percent increase.
District board vice president Mary Spencer said the hikes were in the best interest of the district, but the board reversed the decision because several customers disagreed with the nature and timing of the action.
Some customers have started efforts to oust the board members through a recall election. Mumm encouraged the public to work together in the rate study before taking action.
District officials have cited increases in the cost of electricity and wastewater treatment chemicals as reasons to implement the rate adjustment. Water rates have not been raised in four years, which is why the board was forced to approve such a high increase Dec. 22.