Water rate increase proposed for Hungry Horse

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Residents in Hungry Horse could see a substantial water rate increase.

The Hungry Horse water district plans on raising rates to meet growing costs, managers say.

The district has three wells and about 350 customers, said board president John Rippe.

The current base rate for water service is $27.45 and then customers are billed based on a per 1,000 gallon rate usage.

Under the proposed plan, the base service for a 3/4-inch line (standard for most homes) would go up to $44.59; a 1-inch line would go from $48.86 to $79.82; a 1-1/2-inch line from 109.80 to $178.36 and a 2-inch line from 195.17 to $318.37.

The system right now is costing more to run that what it brings in, Rippe noted.

“We have all of the big city issues on a small town budget. We have three wells to maintain, so three pumps using electricity and back-up generators for each, three pumps that require maintenance to include interior valves, piping and instrumentation, three pumps that will one day need to be replaced and the telemetry that tells them when to run. The telemetry is on its last leg,” he said in an email to the Hungry Horse News.

The system also has a full time certified operator, Ben Shafer.

“Ben has been limping that (telemetry system) along for years now. The water tanks that have to be cleaned, which is certainly not inexpensive, divers and all that, not because they’re dirty just mandated maintenance that was done very recently. There is constant repair and maintenance to the system itself, a good portion of which is pretty old. When we find ourselves in need of digging and repairing lines, again being a small district we don’t have our own equipment so we have to sub all that to local contractors and the hourly rates depending on what equipment is needed. Not to mention the sizable loan we are paying on and will be for quite some time from the last system upgrade,” Rippe said.

The water system has an annual debt service of about $72,000, Rippe noted. That’s for a loan that paid for previous repairs.

Interested folks are encouraged to attend the meeting at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Canyon Elementary School, where the proposed rate schedule and status of the system will be discussed.

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