OGDEN -- Water was on fire Thursday night as city officials held a heated town hall meeting to discuss the recent water and utility rate study.
The city is considering bonding to pay for about $45 million in needed infrastructure improvements that range from replacing old pipeline to a total replacement of the city's water treatment plant in Ogden Canyon.
The improvements are scheduled to be completed in the next seven years.
The city's consultant on the study, Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham, presented several scenarios of how to pay for the improvements. All of the scenarios included bonding.
Cody Deeter, of LYR&B, said a scenario that does not include bonding was considered, but it would result in a dramatic spike in water rates.
"We just felt it wasn't feasible," he said.
A 2008 bond paid for about $50 million in water and sewer projects, but some of the more expensive improvement items, like the water treatment plant, could not be covered.
Ogden Public Services Director Jay Lowder said issuing another bond would allow the city to pay the costs of the improvements over time with smaller water rate increases.
After about two hours' worth of presentations from the city and its consultant, residents were given three minutes each to voice their opinions to the city council.
Resident Dan Schroeder has been following the study since the onset and said the city should avoid bonding to keep long-term expenses down.
Schroeder said he is convinced that the city can avoid bonding while keeping rates from spiking.
He said the city should first work to minimize water department operating costs, which the city says have increased by $3 million since 2008.
Schroeder also suggested the city prioritize capital projects and build them at an average rate of $4 million per year and take any funds needed for improvements beyond that from the city's sewer fund.
Resident Deb Badger also told the council not to fund the improvements with bonds.
"I just wish they would look other places than debt service," she said. "We end up paying so much money in interest, and that money doesn't go toward the improvements."
Schroeder and resident John Thompson said they would like to see more equity in the way the city charges its water customers based on use.
"I'd like people to have more control over their water bills," Schroeder said. "People who conserve a significant amount of water should have a significantly lower bill."
Currently, Ogden charges users a base rate of $15 or $24 per month, depending on meter size.
Water is then charged according to usage. The most a user could pay beyond the base rate is $3.19 per 1,000 gallons, no matter how much water they use, according to city figures.
Another public hearing on utility rates and the Capital Improvement Plan will be held at 6 p.m. May 1 at the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd.