The Big Sky County Water and Sewer board discuss findings from the AE2S study that resulted in a rate hearing. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Addressing rate discrepancies

In-depth study leads Big Sky County Water and Sewer board to alter rate structure

Ryan Graf with AE2S engineering firm teleconferenced with the Big Sky County Water and Sewer (BSCWS) board at the Oct. 22 rate hearing. 

He explained that the study was established to understand and fine-tune a plan to address cost of service incongruities between water and sewer users in the district. 

Resort Tax vice chair Steve Johnson said this move addresses discrepancies between rate payers: condominium owners were paying 30% too much, irrigation accounts were paying 30% too little. 

Approximately 160 irrigation accounts will see increased charges, according to BSCWSD financial officer Terry Smith. 

Also, board member Mike DuCuennois explained that the new tier structure is an attempt to encourage water conservation. 

Longtime Big Sky resident and homeowner Ron Downer discussed the irrigation of his 10,000 square feet lawn and concern that his rate will shoot-up considerably during particularly dry years. 

“You can only cut back so much and still have a lawn,” Downer said. 

“The reality is that we are going to see a lot more brown lawns around here in the third quarter,” Johnson said and further explained that from a fire prevention standpoint, as long as it is cut, it presents very little danger. 

“In previous rate studies, have you ever gone to this kind of detail?” longtime area resident and homeowner Mary Ann Comstock asked. 

“The answer is no,” BSCWSD general manager Ron Edwards replied. 

Comstock later said she commends their effort. 

“Because I have a history of serving on a previous water board, I understand there is a need to keep up with costs,” she said. 

Downer noted that affordable housing is emphasized so much in the community and that keeping water and sewer affordable plays into that effort. 

“We’re putting a more robust metering system in which will allow users to check-in weekly or daily,” DuCuennois explained. The new technology means that if a customer gets a broken line or anything really deviates from their typical flow, BSCWSD will also receive an alert. This will help keep surprises at bay for property owners, he said. 

DuCuennois moved for the general manager to proceed with “this recommended rate structure towards either a resolution or a first reading for our next board meeting.”

Board member Dick Fast seconded, the board approved. 

The next meeting is Nov. 19 at 8 a.m. 

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