Mountain Regional’s debt decreases dramatically
Debt for Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District has decreased dramatically since government officials spent more than $30 million forming the public water company about seven years ago.
"Everyone is aware that when we first got started, we had a fairly high debt per residential equivalent connection," said Andy Armstrong, general manager of Mountain Regional Water.
Most households the Snyderville Basin company served in 2001 used one equivalent residential connection that represented about $25,800 worth of debt, he explained.
Today that number has dropped to $6,590.
"It’s dropped markedly and consistently," Armstrong said. "We’re getting an economy of scale that we always predicted."
The Summit County Commission has approved a tentative $5.3 million operating budget for Mountain Regional Water Special Service District for 2008.
"It’s working very, very well," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said, praising the water company’s management team. "We have lots of confidence that they’re doing an excellent job."
Rates for homeowners will not increase next year because Mountain Regional officials expect to balance the budget by earning almost $5.4 million, Richer said.
"Our growth has far exceeded what we needed to have," Armstrong explained, adding that new homes and businesses help cover debt payments for Mountain Regional.
Operating revenue earned by Mountain Regional in 2006 totaled roughly $4.8 million.
Helping fund next year’s coffers is an expected 14 percent increase in water sales for the district, he said.
"Our water sales are increasing every year," Armstrong said.
The staff at Mountain Regional is also leaner than when the district formed. The company began with 11 full-time employees for every 1,000 customers. Today the district employs fewer the five people for every 1,000 equivalent residential connections.
Since Mountain Regional enacted heftier water rates for residents about three years ago to encourage conservation, water sales in western Summit County have not declined, he said.
"Our conservation rates don’t seem to impact water sales," Armstrong said. "We’d love to see conservation."
Summit County officials were criticized after roughly $30 million was obtained through bonding to form Mountain Regional.
"It was a pretty daunting task," Armstrong said, praising his employees and members of the Summit County Commission for "staying the course." "I think Mountain Regional was the best thing the county ever did."
Much of the $30 million was used to purchase smaller water systems to regionalize service in the Snyderville Basin to one provider.
"It took a lot of fortitude on the part of Mountain Regional," said Armstrong. "They kept their eye on where they wanted to be."
According to Armstrong, Mountain Regional currently owns enough water to supply nearly 2,100 new customers.
"The Mountain Regional company is in much better financial condition than it ever was before. It’s reflective of both the growth of Mountain Regional and it’s being managed properly and well," Richer said. "Sometimes you have to take some hits and do things that are not politically popular."
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