The rumors are beginning to fly again. Talk and speculation over the reasons behind the rate increase at Art's water station are polarizing the ranch, producing two distinct camps. There are those who feel that Art Trujillo is an opportunist who is taking advantage of the latest city water rate increase to gouge his customers by doubling his rates per gallon. Then there are the rest who side with Art and feel that he is more than entitled as a business man to charge whatever he feels necessary to maintain a decent profit and that having to pay two cents per gallon for water is still a bargain. So what is really going on?
Why not just make some phone calls to get the facts? What a concept! So I phoned Jim Fernandez at City Hall and asked about the recent water rate hike for city customers. He informed me that there was an average increase of 30 to 33 percent for in-city water users. The rates vary, but he assured me that all water customers received the rate increase, including commercial users. As to why, it has to do with revenue and staying abreast of operating expenses.
Then we discussed the water dispensing stations. They are now charging the Valdez station a $100 annual fee and insisting that only county residents be permitted to purchase water. Art has a previous agreement with the city so there was no annual hike in his operating permit, but he also is now required to sell only to people in Las Animas County. The city is now charging Art and Valdez a base rate of $3 per 100 cubic feet of water, which breaks down to $1 per 100 gallons or one cent per gallon. The 700,000 gallon per month limit for Art's is still in effect, and if Art exceeds this limit, the city will not shut him down. But Art will have to pay the city a surcharge of $3 per 100 gallons, the price being charged rural large commercial users.
Next I phoned Art. Why is he now charging two cents per gallon at the dispensing station? Simply because the city has increased his rates, and he's trying to run a business and stay ahead of the game. If he exceeds the 700,000 gallon limit, he needs to be able to pay the surcharge and still make a living. His delivery charge has increased by only $10.
When all is said and done, I don't think this is going to put that big a dent in our wallets. Art is providing a service. He has a right to charge whatever he feels is fair. And really! These days, what else can you buy for only two cents?