Friday, May 3, 2013

April 2013

Week 11 (April 1-5)
I began the week by finishing entering the sewer rates in Excel, I now had the information from each community I was going to compare rates with.  I compared the cost for commercial as well as residential charges at a minimum monthly rate as well as various amounts of usage, just as I had done with the water rates.
On Wednesday, Ken Coleman contacted me to come and pick up my proposal.  I went to his office to pick up my proposal and we talked about all the changes he wanted to see in the next draft.  Ken had gone through my proposal thoroughly, marking up everything he wanted to be changed, explained further or cut out. I told him how I had already changed the rate increase options to A, B and C.  I also told him how I had seen a news report on Denver Water within the past week and thought I could add in a section on the drought implications for this summer.  He agreed that it would be a good addition to the paper as well.  I spent the rest of the week going through the edits Ken had given me.  I added a section about the effects of two insufficient years of snowfall.  Denver Water had already declared its district to be in a Stage 2 Drought effective immediately.  In a stage two drought, not only are there restrictions on watering lawns and general water use, but there is also a rate increase in effect in order to promote conservation of water by the customer.  This could be another good reason for a rate increase for the City of Gunnison as well. 
At this meeting, Ken also advised me that I not prepare a PowerPoint for my presentation to City Council.  He said they are usually too difficult to run and would be unappealing to the members of council.  We still agreed that my proposal would be too long to rely on the members to read it prior to my presentation and that I should also make a summary, something one or two pages that they could quickly read to get the gist of my project.  As I went through the corrections that Ken gave me, I also set up my summary.
Week 12 (April 8-12)
Since I was presenting my findings to council next Tuesday, I spent Monday finishing tuning up my rate proposal as per what Ken Coleman had suggested.  I also completed my summary that included a couple charts. At the end of the day Monday, I e-mailed my new proposal and summary to Joe and Ken Coleman for review.
When I came in Wednesday morning, Joe’s supervisor, Ken Bradford “Tex” called me into his office.  Joe had passed along my report to him and he had some things he wanted to go over with me.  He had gone through the whole document and made his comments that he wanted me to look over later, but he had a very important piece of information for me.  Up until this time, I believed that I was supposed to be requesting a rate increase.  Tex informed me that Joe would like a rate increase, but it probably wasn’t going to happen.  Rather than to spend the time with council answering questions about what would happen if a rate increase were to occur, Tex wanted me to focus on the biggest problem with the current system, unaccounted water.  We spent the rest of our meeting brainstorming ideas that the water department could use to cut down on this problem.  Tex agreed that I should still suggest the rate increase as the next step, but fixing the unaccounted water needed to occur first.
I spent the rest of the week fixing my proposal and summary as to what Tex and I had spoken about and sent my final copies to him to be printed out for council on the following Tuesday.

Week 13 (April 15-19)
Tuesday, April 16, I presented my findings to the city council.  I spent most of Monday preparing what I was going to say as I was extremely nervous.  I was the last of the five internships to present on Tuesday night.  As I listed to the other interns give their reports, I realized that I had a lot of good information in my report and I was not scared anymore.  I gave my presentation to council quickly but still displaying all of the information that I had found.  The council members were then given a chance to ask me questions, and they had a lot of them.  I was able to answer them all immediately and with references to my report.  They then asked me how I had enjoyed the internship thus far.  I told them about how much I had learned and how it was very interesting to see another side of the water equation in the City.  If it were up to me alone, I would set the prices much higher in hopes that the water would be used much less!  My supervisors then all complimented the work I had done and clarified a couple points I had made.
I spent the rest of the week editing my proposal as to clarify the questions from the council meetings.  I also began working on the rate analysis for sewer once again.

Week 14 (April 22-26)
The beginning of the week Joe gave me a copy of an e-mail he had received from Wendy Hanson in the City of Gunnison’s finance department! She had gone through my report and had lots of clarifications for me.  She apologized for not reading the proposal before I went to City Council with it, but this is a learning process for everyone involved!  Wendy said that as this project goes on, they will begin to have students meet with some sort of committee, including a finance representative to make sure that the information is all accurate before it is made public at Council.
The first discrepancy Wendy had was how I said bills were assessed.  I was led to believe that the user was billed per 1,000 gallons that they used.  Anything over the 1,000 gallons was then billed to the customer the next month.  Wendy informed me that this was incorrect.  The users are billed per gallon that they use each month, the rates just increase at the tiers.  I assumed that this was the way it was billed to begin with, but I was told otherwise.  It was an easy fix in my summary and proposal.
The other discrepancy that Wendy saw in my work was my value of $2.03 for each 1,000 gallons the city provides to the customer.  Wendy got a number of $1.70.  I e-mailed Wendy telling her how I had come up with the number and we decided it would be best to meet up and talk.  I met with Wendy on Friday and we went over our numbers.  The discrepancy came from the fact that I included the capital costs of the City and she did not.  She informed me that this money comes from the minimum monthly payments and should not be included in the cost per 1,000 gallon for the City that I had come up with.  I spent the rest of the week making these, and the other changes Wendy informed me of, to both my summary and proposal.
Week 15 (April 29- May 3)
I began the week going through my final draft of my report one last time, I want this thing to be bullet proof when I finally turn it in! I decided to add one last section on the monthly minimum.  I made a graph that compared only the monthly minimums for the like communities.  Since Woodland Park does not have one, it was not included in this graph.  I then placed the graph in the section that I introduce Option A.  I explain that by looking at Figure 7 (the graph) one can see that the addition of a $5 to the monthly minimum still keeps Gunnison with one of the lowest monthly minimums in the comparison study.
I then began working on the sewer rate analysis.  I compiled as much as I could of the information that was on my water rate analysis Excel form.  I made graphs and took a look at the numbers.  Surprisingly, the City of Gunnison sewer rates are very close to the average.  I do not believe that a rate increase would be necessary after taking a look at all the information.  Not only were the values close to the average of the other twenty-one cities in the study, but the revenue coming in was covering the budget as well. 
On Friday, I sat down with Tex and Joe to conduct an exit interview.  We talked about all the things I had learned.  I explained to them how when I started this internship, I had no idea what I was in for.  It was so interesting for me to see a different side of the water issues, especially in a place where I had learned so much about, Gunnison.  I also explained to them how different it is going from focusing on conservation and sustainable use of resources to saving the most money and very little environmental consideration.  Both Tex and Joe then commended me for my work and told me that they would stay in touch to let me know what happens when they present my findings to the new council.  Joe mentioned that it may take a couple tries with council to get a rate increase approved, but my information will help them to make a good case!

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