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‘The buck stops with us’: Gillette City Council advances utility rate increase to third reading

An ordinance expected to raise utility rates for residential customers by approximately $38 was advanced to its final reading by the Gillette City Council on April 4.

GILLETTE, Wyo. – An ordinance to increase city utility rates starting in May advances to its final reading following a decision by the Gillette City Council during their Tuesday night meeting. 

If approved with a third reading, the ordinance will increase the utility bill for a typical residential customer residing in a three-bedroom house by $38 with a series of rate increases from May 2023 to May 2025, according to the City of Gillette. 

Specifically, the ordinance calls for utility bills to increase by 6.9% in May 2023, 6.2% in May 2024, and 4.2% in May 2025, the city says. 

The rate increases were suggested by FCS Group which was hired by the city to determine how the utility funds performing with current utility rates and what steps the city could take to stabilize them moving forward. The findings were presented to the council during a meeting on Feb. 14. 

During the meeting on April 4, Councilwoman Tricia Simonson said the rate increases are necessary to provide the extra funding needed to keep up with inflation and the rising costs associated with maintaining a city utility service, both of which were concerns raised by FCS Group and City Utility Director Mike Cole during previous meetings. 

“It’s important for utilities to keep up with inflation so that we do have that revenue set aside so that we can fix infrastructure and provide good infrastructure and do maintenance on the infrastructure without getting into these dire situations to where we have to raise utility rates at this rate,” Simonson said. 

Pictures of the Gillette City Council at City Hall (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

She made a point of stating that the city is not for profit and only seeks to raise the revenue that it needs to care for its infrastructure. Simonson said that the city’s not-for-profit stance and its customer service standards are what sets the city apart from private utility companies that can take an inordinate amount of time to address power outages and other utility issues. 

“Sometimes you can be on hold for up to a couple of hours whereas here, if you have a power outage, you can call the city of Gillette and they’ve got somebody on it right away,” Simonson said. “So, I think it’s important to note that we have great customer service; we have people that are willing to get out there and fix water line breaks and power outages very quickly.”

Raising utility rates is one of the hardest things a city council has to do, according to Mayor Shay Lundvall, but it’s something that has to be done for Gillette’s future now as opposed to simply kicking the can down the road for future councils to deal with. 

“I mean, really in a way, the buck has got to stop somewhere,” Lundvall said. “And we’re choosing, as hard as it is, to say ‘hey, it’s going to stop with us.’”

Correction (4/6/2023): A previous version of this story indicated that the decision to increase utility rates was supported by the entire Gillette City Council. During the decision, Councilman Jim West voted against the ordinance which ultimately passed with six members voting in favor of it.

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