After a discussion that lasted more than an hour, City Council voted 6-3 Thursday to pass an ordinance that will immediately increase water and sewer rates by 22.11 percent.
The ordinance will then increase rates by 7.69 percent in 2014, 7.13 percent in 2015 and 6.67 percent in 2016. After 2016, water and sewer rate increases will be based on the annual Consumer Price Index of utility maintenance and operation.
The increases will benefit the Joint Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund. Wastewater Manager Art Torrez said the city needs to generate at least $30 million in 20 years to perform necessary water projects and repairs to infrastructure.
For more than 20 years, Mayor Del Jurney said the city’s governing bodies had not addressed the situation as they should have and “now we have a chance to fix it and fix it for the people 40 years from now.”
“We’ve got to be consistent where we haven’t been,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t put a Band-aid on this again.”
Because it is the first major increase in so long, Jurney said to catch up, the city has to “to take a big bite of the apple,” but “the bites get smaller and smaller.”
Councilor Steve Henderson said it is always a tough decision to raise rates, but “we’ve got to apply the rates that will solve Roswell’s problems.”
“I think we need to realize that what we do now is going to affect other generations and I think we need to bite the bullet,” he said. “If by chance, we have more money than we know what to do with, we can always lower the rates.”
Councilor Juan Oropesa, who voted against the ordinance, said he didn’t like the idea of tying the rates to the index because of its unstable increases and how that would impact those with lower incomes.
“Obviously somebody makes that determination,” he said. “But where does that put people who are not getting a raise to go with that?”
Councilor Barry Foster, who voted in favor, said while the index was uncontrollable, not having it as a basis could end up costing the city.
“I think we’ve been hiding for a long time,” he said. “We either bite the bullet now or pay for it later.”
Due to absence, Councilor Elena Velasquez did not vote.