Utah city wants to end confusion about utility bills
Irate residents want to know why bills spiked; city to send out mailer.
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Eagle Mountain • Francisco Sicairos, who built his home seven years ago in the Kiowa Valley neighborhood, knows a cold winter when he feels one. He isn't looking for someone to pay his heating bill — just an explanation.

"This is my highest bill I have had in the past seven years," he said at his home Tuesday, where the thermostat was set at 67 degrees.

Eagle Mountain has higher utility rates than neighboring cities because it is paying off a utility service bond. But residents want to know why their bills spiked in January.

The council met Tuesday to address concerns about the bills raised at a recent town hall meeting. Some residents want more information about where their money is going.

The only explanation the city has given Sicairos is that January was a record cold month. "I know it was cold. I work where it is cold. Don't tell me what I know," he said. He believes the city is trying to use the increases to pay off other bills.

Sicairos' bill for January was $400, $127 higher than the previous month. He doesn't understand why his bill was nearly double that of his neighbor, who has a comparable-sized home.

Eagle Mountain city spokeswoman Linda Peterson said residents soon will get a mailer explaining the metering issue in more depth and what to expect on next month's bill. Since the city owns all of the utilities (aside from phone service), residents' bills aren't comparable to other cities, she said.

"There has been misinformation that has really inflamed the situation and created a lot of distrust where there didn't need to be," Peterson said.

Among the options discussed Tuesday was changing the format of the bills to include more detail, but it would take until May for template changes to show up on the bill. Councilman John Painter says that isn't soon enough, and that residents need quicker action due to the "magnitude and concern" of the issue.

Council members said even they have a hard time understanding their bills. Mayor Heather Jackson said while she is on an equal pay plan for water — paying a flat fee each month — she was surprised when she still owed after putting in her lawn last fall.

"Frankly, it was frustrating to me," Jackson said. "So I can imagine how it can be frustrating to others."

Councilman Nathan Ochsenhirt suggested using a legend to explain rates and terms.

"We want people to know that nothing is hidden," Ochsenhirt said.

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CimCity