Water bills

Dear Editor:

Last week, we received our January water bill; property owners received their 2014 property tax assessment. It’s a good time to consider the real cost of water and wastewater service. We pay double the amount paid by our Durango neighbors for the same service.

The reason is the past actions of our provider, PAWSD (Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District. PAWSD built facilities four times larger than needed, some of which still do not operate properly. PAWSD constructed substandard pipelines, which leak 40 percent of the water that they attempt to deliver. PAWSD and the SJWCD paid $9 million for land that will never be used, and which will be sold at a huge loss. Each PAWSD monthly bill contains charges for water and wastewater services.

If you are a frugal water user, or you were not in residence in January, your water bill was $24.50, $9 more than last year. Users continued to pay a $32 fixed charge for wastewater service. Meanwhile, Durango residents paid a fixed charge of $13.08 per month, and a $6.51 charge for wastewater.

If one uses more than 2,000 gallons of water in Durango, the rate is $2.32 per 1,000 gallons; the PAWS rate is $4.22 per 1,000 gallons. The annual cost for a typical PAWSD customer is about $700, while a Durango resident pays about $300. PAWSD users pay more than twice as much as do Durango residents.

This is only a part of the story. Pagosa Springs homeowners pay for PAWSD’s “mad bonds,” through our property taxes; bonds that we did not vote on. The bond rate on residential property is 14.382 mills; your cost appears on your 2014 assessment. You could be paying more through your property tax, than you do for you’re the annual total of your water bill. And, new bonds are on the horizon; again, you will not be allowed to vote your preference.

The current PAWSD Board and Management had no role in the decisions of the past; they did increase 2014 water rates by 4.4 percent. Strangely, President Allan Bunch lobbied for a 32 percent increase (PAWSD public records), but his colleagues turned him down. The new PAWSD Board will have the opportunity to exercise control over expenses and water loss.

PAWSD Board elections will be held on May 6th, and absentee ballots will be available by mid-April. It’s time to encourage responsible members of the community members to run for office, to support the continuing board members and management. Chris Pitcher, a civil engineer and Pagosa Springs businessperson could be a candidate. He ran for office last time. Paul Hanson, another businessperson regularly attends meetings, and poses “the right” questions. There must be others. PAWSD management must do better than “doing their best,” per President Bunch. Our water costs are double that of our neighbors, and our water losses are four times the national standard. PAWSD must do better. Elect two new board members, who will join the board and management to reduce expenses and water loss.

John S. Ramberg

This story was posted on February 13, 2014.