Beginning on Jan. 1, water and sewer rates in Basin will return to their original structure from before April 2020. On Dec. 16, the Basin Water and Sewer District board passed a resolution reverting changes made by the previous board, which had come under heavy criticism from some residents due in part to the changes that board made to the rates. 

When the new rates take effect, active water and sewer customers in Basin will pay a flat fee of $60 each month: $48 for water and $12 for sewer. The resolution eliminated a flat fee of $12 that the previous board imposed on vacant lots, many of which didn’t receive water or sewer service. 

Board member Nancy Smallwood said at a board meeting on Dec. 16, in which the board held a hearing on the resolution, that three water users who saw public notices of the proposed resolution called her to ask how it would affect their rates. She said that all three were supportive once she told them that they would pay the same or less under the proposal.

Frank Watkins and Don O’Neill, the two members of the public in attendance, both commented in favor of the resolution. 

All four board members present—Smallwood, Jason Norman, Ron Hale and Dede Rhodes—voted to approve the resolution, passing it unanimously. Board member Brian Carver was absent.

“We have new rates, we got something done,” Norman, the board president, joked after the vote. “That’s awesome that we got one thing.” 

The most recent change is the latest in a nearly two-year saga of water and sewer rate changes in Basin, which has riled some residents and led to the mass resignation of the previous board in April 2021. The current board was appointed by Jefferson County in May.

On April 7, 2020, the previous board passed a resolution enacting a rate structure that charged residential properties $48 for water and sewer service. That resolution also imposed a $12 flat fee on all lots, including all unoccupied lots. 

According to past board member Joy Lewis, the board enacted the flat fee of $12 on every lot because members were hoping to receive a $400,000 state revolving loan from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and they had to prove to the DNRC that they had the means to meet the loan’s 50% payback requirement. The district received the loan; it isn’t required to use all $400,000, but loan terms require the district to repay half of whatever amount it takes out. The remainder is forgiven. The current board is determining how to use the funds.

Lewis told The Monitor in July that the board heard many complaints from the community about the $12 fee, so in January 2021, the board decided to stop charging the $12 fee to lots that didn’t receive water service—typically unimproved or empty lots—and to increase active water users’ rates by $12. So, from February onward, water users were charged the same total amount, but the $12 increase was part of the monthly water rate, rather than a flat fee assessed on each lot.

Lewis said that the board thought that since they were removing the charge for lots that didn’t receive water service, and because the overall cost for active water users would still have the same $12 increase, the board didn’t have to pass a new resolution to change the water rate, but could instead make the change administratively.

“We were just so overwhelmed with the complaints and just thought since it wasn’t changing the overall picture, it would still be covered by the last resolution,” Lewis said over the summer.

The current board began refunding customers for the $12 monthly rate increase in July. But resetting the previous legally enacted rate structure—$48 for service, plus the $12 fee on unoccupied lots—required the board to publicly notice and pass a resolution. And on Thursday, the board did just that.

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