AMERICAN FORK, Utah — A huge increase in water rates in American Fork, Utah, could force many small-business owners to close up shop, owners say. Business owners, including several coin laundry owners, complained to the city council of increases up to 600%.
The higher fees are intended to help pay for a $47 million general obligation bond for the secondary pressurized irrigation system that voters approved in 2006. The new rate schedule for drinking water has a $14 base, then goes up in tiers to $6 per thousand gallons for users of more than 100,000 gallons a month.
Business owners at a hearing cried foul over the heavy burden placed on businesses while irrigation water for residents is so much cheaper, asking the city council to more evenly spread the cost of the new irrigation system.
Coin laundry owner Sylvan Buehler was dismayed to learn that while his neighbor’s water bill would go down, his business tab would go from $500 a year to $3,000, according to the Deseret News. Buehler said this is his most serious business challenge in 44 years, and he called the rates discriminatory because many of the people who use his facility are poor.
Former City Councilman B. Kay Hutchings, who operates a family drycleaning business, told the Deseret News that his water bill was going from $1,300 a year to $6,000.
“That makes it tough to compete with the competition in Lehi and Pleasant Grove,” he said.
Others complained that the rate hike for businesses was too steep to pass along to customers, and that they may have to lay off employees in order to pay the new rate.
The fees went into effect in November, but won’t be billed until April, so it’s possible that the council could revise them. However, Councilman Dale Gunther told the Deseret News that he didn’t know how else to charge for the water.
“I don’t like it any more than you do, but I don't have a solution,” he said.