The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kathleen Stinson
The Staff of The News 

City manager explains Portales water rate plan


Last updated 8/6/2022 at 11:31am

Portales City Manager Sarah Austin in an interview Wednesday said the city plans to raise its water rates in all categories and explained why.

“With the water situation not improving, it is in the best interest of the city to implement rate structures and penalties that assist with the water situation as well as implementing stricter water restrictions,” Austin said. 

She said the city plans an across-the-board rate increase sometime this year.

“The water rates have not been raised in over ten years,” Austin said. “We anticipate doing that this year some time. (This would apply to) all rates, commercial, industrial and residential.”

A related, but different issue came up at the last council meeting, not with regard to water rates per se, but having to do with the water crisis. The city hasinstituted new “overage penalties,” as the city calls them,onnew commercial/industrial permits. At the meeting, the council was asked tovotewhether to approvetwo water service applications for new business permits.

One of the applicants, Tyson Lewis, who is owner of Lucky Keystone Rd. LLC/cannabis production,requested 15,000 gallons a month for his base allocation. The city public works committee recommended a base ofonly 9,000 gallons.

Lucky Keystone described asan indoor cannabis horticulturebusiness in the application.

Public Works Director John DeSha said at the meeting the newly -created water “overage penalties” for companies that exceed their base allocation apply as follows: Any user who exceeds his or her base allocation pays a penalty, DeSha said.

So if Lewis, for example, were to use 15,000 gallons a month, any gallons above his 9,000 base allotment, would be charged an overage penalty.

The overage penalty structure, as previously reported, is: The first 1,000 to 3,000 gallons above the base allocation costs $250 per 1,000 gallons; 4,000 to 5,000 gallons above the allocation costs $500 per 1,000 gallons; 6,000 gallons above the allotment cost $1,000 per 1,000 gallons, as stated in the city permit language, DeSha told the council.

The first “exceedance” beyond 10,000 gallons would result in a disruption in service pending a plan for a “correction,” the permits state. A second exceedance of more than 10,000 gallons would result in a discontinuance of service.

Related to this topic but somewhat different, Austin said:“The overage penalty that you see in those permits are something the city is going to work towards implementing for all commercial accounts.”

Lewis spoke to the News on Tuesday and said: “It’s going to take money to solve this issue,” referring to the commercial property tax revenues businesses like his bring to small cities like Portales.

The council voted to approve Lewis’ application with the possibility of amending the rate in the future, as previously reported.

He said on Tuesday that he is going to consider whether he can “reduce the canopy size,” meaning the number of plants he will produce to use fewer gallons of water in his business and whether it is practical for him to do this. “We are now trying to re-evaluate to reduce the size of the facility.”

As his estimated usage stands now, if he goes too far over his base allotment, he could be paying $1 a gallon for water, he said.

He said his business brings a lot to small communities that really need it like paying taxes, buying real estate, spending power and providing jobs.


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