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Water, sewer customers want new rate structure

April 05, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

A civic group made up of county water and sewer customers wants the Washington County Commissioners to consider changing its rate structure.

Ray A. Horst, President of the Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association, said Friday his group wants the county to consider charging quarterly minimum fees to apartments. The way the rate structure is now, an apartment complex only pays one minimum fee, no matter how many apartments are served.

Horst said that's not fair to homeowners.

One way to make the rates more fair, Horst said, would be to have a linear rate, which has been discussed by the Water and Sewer Advisory Commission.

The linear rate would result in higher volume rates and cheaper minimum charges.

Every customer would pay the same rate per 1,000 gallons used, although a minimum charge would still apply.

Under one linear option considered by the commission, customers using about 16,000 gallons a quarter or less would save money - up to $96 a year. Those who use more than 16,000 gallons would pay more.

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Michael Armel, vice president of the Southwest Metropolitan Area Civic Association and a member of the advisory commission, said Friday that there is too much of a disparity between the rates paid by multiple-unit residential complexes and homes.

Armel has said a linear rate would reward conservation, help out retired people on fixed incomes and force owners of apartment complexes to pay the same rate that others pay.

Horst said he's only had about six responses to three Back Page ads touting a petition in favor of fair water and sewer rates.

He said the anger of customers over higher water and sewer rates has subsided somewhat since projected yearly rate increases have dropped dramatically in the past two years.

"I think when they were looking at 14 percent (a year) they were up in arms. I think now when they are looking at 5 percent they're a bit more docile. We're down to about inflation."

The advisory commission recommended to the County Commissioners Thursday that they raise sewer rates 3 percent and water rates 4 percent, but did not make a recommendation about changing the rate structure.

"I think it will be discussed more in the future," said commission Chairman Clarence Scheer. "It's a very very complex issue," he said.

Scheer said the change would cause the department's revenue to fluctuate more depending on usage. Scheer also said the base rate includes a charge for the fixed cost of water and sewer lines and treatment facilities.

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