By Joshua Wood, Cowboy State Daily
The City of Rawlins has partially reversed course on levying fines against residents for water over-usage.
On July 25, the city announced it would be charging residents a $250 fine for disregarding water restrictions. The announcement came five months after Rawlins suffered a catastrophic water failure which left residents and businesses without clean water for several days.
A social media post by the city provided Rawlins residents a way to report people or businesses that weren’t following water restrictions.
“If you are aware of places that are not following water restrictions, you can report them” to city staff, the post read.
But a week later, the city changed course announcing after a “careful review of the ordinance” it is required to give each home a warning prior to issuing a fine.
Mira Miller, community relations coordinator for the City of Rawlins, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that officials took a closer look at the ordinance.
“My understanding is when the initial group that saw the drop in the water levels reviewed the code, they thought public messaging would count as the warning,” Miller said. “Upon the lawyer reviewing it, she clarified it’s actually an individual warning. So any kind of public messaging done on a mass basis does not count.”
According to the City of Rawlins’ general water use management plan, anyone violating the plan must first be issued a warning or citation by a member of the public works department.
Miller told Cowboy State Daily the city is “totally fine not needing to give out fines”, adding the important thing was to let people know how serious the situation could become. When the fines were first announced, Miller said, it was done as a “if this is what it takes” measure to curtail water over-usage.
“It turns out that’s not what it takes,” said Miller. “It’s just better communication and hopefully people do take it seriously now.”
Though Miller said things are looking up, Rawlins residents should still work to conserve water usage.
“When one of the tanks went below 50%, that’s where we get really uncomfortable if something happened overnight,” said Miller. “You never know what could go wrong, like we learned in March.”