By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) provides four different utility services – gas, water, wastewater, and solid waste – to the residents and businesses of Las Cruces. LCU bills monthly to recover the costs of providing those services, and every few years must review rates to ensure that billing is keeping up with the actual costs of providing the utility services.
Currently, the Utility Customer Advisory Group (UCAG), a group of five volunteer ratepayers, is reviewing solid waste rates, which would recover the cost of disposing of 74,400 tons of trash every year. That effort involves providing weekly curbside trash pickup to more than 33,000 homes, commercial trash pickup at more than 2,700 businesses, monthly Grappler and Green Grappler services, and clean fill and green waste management at the closed Old Foothills Landfill.
The conclusion from the review is that LCU must increase revenues by $1.3 million to recover operating expenses. For residents, that means a $2 per month increase in the cost of curbside trash pickup; whether you have a 96-gallon container or a 64-gallon compact saver container. Commercial accounts will also see an increase.
The question for residents is: Would you prefer that increase be “phased-in” at a $1 monthly increase per year for 2-years, or would you prefer a “full cost” increase of $2 per month in solid waste rates all at once.
Through Frioday, Oct. 4, UCAG is hosting “Community Conversations” to answer questions and gather input from residents. UCAG volunteer committee members will be available in the lobby of City Hall, 700 N. Main St., from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2; Thursday Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 4. to discuss the solid waste rate review.
The $1.3 million figure was determined after months of analysis by Stantec, Inc., an independent consultant, who studied LCU operating costs, current rates, cost of providing solid waste services to our community, and solid waste rate design. Even with the rate increase, LCU continues to rank among the least expensive solid waste service providers in our region.
With input from the public, the UCAG will send its recommendation to the LCU Board of Commissioners. The LCU Board will then send its recommendation to City Council, who will make the final decision.
“Residents are crucial to making sure that we send the right recommendation to the LCU Board,” said Eugene Suttmiller, UCAG chair . “Understand that LCU utility services are not funded by tax dollars. The cost of providing these utility services is only recovered through monthly billings we all pay.”
All documents associated with the rate review process can be found online at www.las-cruces.org, and then simply searching for “UCAG.” Customers may also email the UCAG Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
The UCAG committee is composed of five volunteer Las Cruces residents (left to right, front row): Frank D. Gomez and Shirley Clark (Vice Chair); (back row) Eugene Suttmiller (Chair), Paul Royalty, and Robert Snyder.
Note: A version of this story was published Sept. 22, 2019 in the Las Cruces Sun-News.