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PAWSD to refund Water Resource Fee

The board of directors of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agreed Monday to refund nearly $700,000 of the controversial Water Resource Fee, as well as setting new amounts for district fees.

The board held the special session Monday to pass a resolution pertaining to Water Resource Fees, Capital Investment Fees (Fund) and the refund of certain portions of these fees.

Board members believed it was important to reach an agreement on such matters before a moratorium would drop the water resource fee to zero dollars on April 1.

Assessing the WRF was subject to a moratorium set in June 2010 and extended in January with the April 1 caveat while the district delved more into the fees.

Discussion on the fee then surfaced at the special meeting.

The resolution of amendment to and clarification of the application of the district’s capital investment fees, water resource fee, and availability fee assessments went through minor revision.

“The District now desires to amend its CIF and WRF related to the results of the extensive 2010-2011 planning efforts that involved extensive public input,” stated the resolution.

A special work session was held prior to Monday’s special session for further review of the fees. The topic of the water availability fee took center stage at the work session. Should that fee be refunded? If so, how much?

“I’m in favor of not refunding any of the Water Availability Fee,” Director Allan Bunch said, and his reasons given swayed the board to agree with his view. The purpose of the Water Availability Fee, Bunch said, was to provide for repairs and further infrastructure so the district can build the water system out to the fullest. The funds collected from the fee had been used to do just that.

“We can’t return it because it’s already been used,” Bunch said.

Therefore, in the new resolution, the refunds given will not pertain to the water availability fees. However, the board members were unanimous in their desire to, as Director Roy Vega said, “give back everything held under Dry Gulch,” which was clearly expressed by Monday’s resolution.

Through this resolution, the care and effort of the board to make a working water district that can aptly provide and serve its customer is clear. For many rate payers, this will appear most evident in the board’s decision to refund the past Water Resource Fee.

The Water Resource Fee was an assessment levied on all new construction to help pay for future water development made necessary by growth (the fee is not currently being assessed due to the moratorium set to expire April 1). PAWSD initiated the fee in 2005, as district engineers insisted new water storage would soon be necessary.

Monday’s resolution deals with any CIF assessments paid after Oct. 12, 2010, and prior to April 1, 2011, for the amount paid in excess of $3,658 per equivalent unit (EU) for water and $762 per EU for wastewater system connection. The total amount the district will be refunding totals $686,000, not including amoritized fees, which are expected to be nominal.

“Can we refund all of it?” Director Allan Bunch asked of district assistant manager Shellie Peterson. When she responded in the affirmative, the motion to refund all funds currently held in the WRF to ratepayers was passed unanimously by the board. The target date for the refund is the end of April.

The resolution was divided into two main parts, the first focusing on clarification by giving precise definitions to charges, services, fees and funds to avoid confusion between the rate payer and PAWSD. The amount of the water system Capital Investment Fee after the research done during the past two year’s financial plan was determined to be $2,658 per EU.

The resolution also addresses the board members’ unanimous desire to be distanced from the Dry Gulch Reservoir project, and their intent to rectify the perceived harm done to ratepayers by that project. For many, Bunch said, WRF means Dry Gulch. It was decided to drop the name “Water Resource Fee.” Instead, new terms appear in the resolution — Raw Water Acquisition (RWA) and Raw Water Acquisition Fee (RWAF).

The RWAF is “assessed for the purposes of covering capital costs of obtaining new raw water,” including facility design, permitting, land acquisition, water rights and so forth, according to the resolution.

The RWAF’s amount is $1,959 per EU.

This RWAF, the board decided, will not be amortized except by petition to the board if there will be three or more EUs involved.

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