Rising concern

By Joshua Lucero
Staff writer
jlucero@cnjonline.com

A proposed increase in water rates has Portales property owner Eddy Hiner worried about his future in the rental business.
Hiner, who said he owns 95 rental units in the city, is concerned his tenants may be priced out of their homes if water bills on average are raised an additional $31.50 per month as recommended by the Public Works Committee.

The extra charge will go toward funding a $27 million wastewater treatment plant and its cost of operation, according to City Manager Doug Redmond.
Today’s average monthly water bill in Portales is about $50, but if the increase goes into effect, the average bill would be more than $80 beginning Jan. 1.
“I’ll have to increase the rental rates of each apartment to equal the increase in water rates,” Hiner said.
Hiner said many of his apartments have utilities included in the monthly rental fee.

“I’ll lose tenants. I already have tenants that live here and don’t pay rent (consistently),” Hiner said. “I don’t know what to do about it. (Increased water rates) may put me out of business.”
Those who rely on a fixed monthly income are also worried the rate hike will be too much to handle.
That includes Connie Thomas, 85.

“Some people I know can afford maybe a $10 increase,” Thomas said, “but $30 seems like a lot.”
City Councilor Keith Thomas said he realizes what the hike means to the citizens of Portales. Thomas said the council is looking for options.
“We are looking at every available option to minimize the increase,” Thomas said. “We need time to sort through it and figure it out.”
Redmond said the city will hold a public hearing for citizens to voice their opinion, but the date has yet to be set.
“This is not the final decision,” Redmond said of the recommended increase.

“There will be a lot more discussion on the rate increase.”
The wastewater treatment plant was needed to conserve water in the city’s wells, according to city officials.
At the current rate of consumption, the well fields will only last 13 years, said Public Works Director John DeSha in a June report.
DeSha said the plant will extend the life of those wells four years by treating wastewater for reuse in watering the city’s schools, parks, and cemetery.