Water rate hike to be discussed

Thomas Garcia

An updated review of the new water rate increases will be discussed during Thursday’s Tucumcari City Commission meeting.

“We want to keep the citizens as informed as possible,” said Commissioner Robert Lumpkin.

Several citizens attended the Oct. 13 commission meeting to complain of an increase in their water bills.

Toni Leal started a petition with over 500 signatures opposing the rates increase.

“Many of the residents are living on a fixed income and can’t afford these new rates,” Leal said.

Leal said the commission should listen to the citizens who are against this increase. She asked the commission to conduct a review of the rate increase.

Lumpkin said the city manager and commissioners are investigating effects of the increased water rates on the city’s budget and its citizens.

“In no way do we want the citizens to suffer with higher than needed rates,” Lumpkin said.

The increase, Ordinance 1092, was approved by the commission on Aug. 11 in an open meeting. It was signed by Mayor Jim Witcher on Aug. 13.

“The rates could have been implemented five days after the mayor signed them,” said City Clerk Christine Dougherty. “The commission chose to wait until the next billing cycle in October.”

The water rates are set by the city based on the projected cost of the operation and maintenance of the city’s water infrastructure. An additional reserve is collected in the event of an emergency such as broken water pipes.

“The city took every legal measure to publicize the proposed water rate increase,” said Interim City Manager Doug Powers.

Powers said notices of meeting and work shops were posted in public location including city hall. He said legal notices were also published detailing the increase.

Despite the notification, many citizens felt blindsided by the increase when they received their water bill in October.

Sandra Coleman said her 95 year-old mother’s water bill was $247, an increase of $90. Several other citizens addressed the commission with an increase complaint ranging from $20 to $100.

Lumpkin said some of the percentages reported by citizens, seemed too high.

“I spoke with residents in my district and some of their increases were to high.

Lumpkin said during the period of increase the area experienced rain and cooler weather.

“It would seem with those conditions residents would not have used as much water,” Lumpkin said.