Bloomfield City Council will weigh adding fees to residents' utility bills to generate the money needed to pay for three capital outlay projects

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FARMINGTON — The city of Bloomfield is looking for ways to generate additional revenue to cover the costs of upcoming projects at its wastewater and drinking water utilities.

The City Council will hear a report about the utilities during Monday's meeting at City Hall.

The city has three main capital improvement projects planned for the aging infrastructure at the utilities: a river bed filtration well that would serve as a secondary source of drinking water, replacing a central pressure zone tank and replacing the wastewater treatment plant.

The three projects have an estimated price tag of about $23.6 million. The city has received a little more than $1 million in capital outlay funding for two of the three projects — $220,000 for the river bed filtration well and $840,000 for the wastewater treatment plant.

The city will be required to come up with a city match, or down payment, for each project. That means it needs more than $1.5 million for the three projects. As of mid-April, the utility fund had set aside about $347,000 for the projects, according to the council's agenda packet.

One option the city may consider is imposing a $5 fee on each utility bill. According to the agenda packet, there are about 3,000 meters in Bloomfield and 400 meters in Blanco, which is also served by the city of Bloomfield. If each bill included a $5 fee, the city could make an additional $204,000 a year that could be put aside for the projects.

Bloomfield is the only city in San Juan County that does not already include a fee in its bills to pay for future projects. Aztec charges a $2.50 flat rate for wastewater plant improvements, and Farmington has a renewal and replacement charge of $9.60 for water and $7.65 for sewer, according to the agenda packet.

Under the proposed plan, customers would pay more money each month, but Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl said the move would save them money in the long run, because the city would not have to pay back as much interest. He added that it is important to set aside money for capital projects and repairs.

"Any time a larger project needs to be done, you end up having to scramble," he said, of the situation in Bloomfield.

Over the past few years, there have been several fiscal years when the city spent more on utilities than they generated in revenue, Strahl said.

In the current fiscal year, it appears the city will spend $177,000 more than it brings in from its utilities. Strahl said that's because the older systems need repairs, and the city has to pull from its reserves to address them.

"You can't continue to do that over the long term," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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