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Residents can send protest with sewer bill

November 22, 1996

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Washington County residents upset with their sewer rates can now let the County Commissioners know how they feel when they pay their bill.

At least that's what the Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association Inc. of Washington County wants them to do. The organization, which was formed because of the recent sewer rate hike, is circulating tiny protest slips it's hoping people will send in with their sewer bills.

"We want to get the County Commissioners' attention that this is a serious matter," said Bob DeVinney of Halfway, who was elected president of the organization Thursday evening.

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The yellow slip of paper, to be inserted in the payment envelope with the bill stub and check, announces that the bill is being paid "under protest as being based on an unfair and inequitable rate structure."

About 135 households have paid the $10 membership fee to belong to the organization, DeVinney said. Most live in the Halfway area, but he said the organization is open to all county residents concerned with the sewer situation.

Under the county's new water and sewer rate structure than went into effect July 1 to help pay off the Water and Sewer Department's $54.8 million debt, Halfway's quarterly sewer rates increased about 93 percent, from an average of $43 to $83. Additional increases will take effect each year and into the next century.

"We feel the new sewer rate increases are unfair and inequitable," DeVinney said.

He said the billing slips, which he hopes the county will keep on file, serve as better protest than if sewer customers simply refused to pay their sewer bills.

"We don't want anyone's sewer service turned off and we don't want their credit ratings damaged," DeVinney said.

The organization also began circulating a petition in protest of the rate hike three weeks ago. So far 1,320 county residents have signed, DeVinney said.

He said he is pleased with the interest but one of the disappointments so far has been the lack of involvement of young families, who might feel they can afford the rate hikes easier than elderly people on fixed incomes can.

"But they have to know they are going to be bled just as well as the seniors are going to be bled," he said.

Anyone wanting more information about the Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association and its protests should contact DeVinney at 582-3436 or Ray Horst, the organization's vice president, at 791-5045.

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