Council takes aim at commercial water rates

By Rod Haxton, editor

Commercial water customers may bear the brunt of the water conservation efforts in Scott City.

The city council’s main initiative to come out of a special meeting last week was to take away the discount that commercial customers have enjoyed for water usage above 40,000 gallons per month, putting them on the same rate schedule as residential customers.

Commercial and residential customers have paid - and will continue to pay - the same rate for consumption of less than 40,000 gallons per month.

However, a residential customer pays $2.72 per thousand gallons for usage above 40,000 gallons. Commercial customers continue to pay $1.70 per thousand.

That will change this spring when commercial customers will begin paying the same rate as residential customers for consumption of more than 40,000 gallons per month.

“Anyone who uses an excessive amount of water needs to pay through the nose for it,” said Councilman Bo Parkinson.

“Raising the rate to $2.72 accomplishes that,” said Councilman Gary Eitel, who was on the committee that looked at rate alternatives in an effort to promote conservation.

While the impact on conservation efforts remains to be seen, this will at least address a question for which council members haven’t been able to offer a good explanation.

“The question I hear most often is why are we giving a break to someone who uses more water?” noted Mayor Dan Goodman.

The council last raised residential and commercial rates in May 2012 by just over 20 percent. At the time, residential rates for usage between 2,500 and 10,000 gallons per month jumped from $1.41 per thousand gallons to $1.70; for usage above 40,000 gallons it went from $2.26 to $2.72 per thousand.

There has always been a single tier for commercial rates, which increased from $1.41 to $1.70 per thousand gallons for any usage above 2,500 gallons per month.

Parkinson suggested lowering the second tier for residential customers from 40,000 gallons of usage to 30,000 or 35,000 gallons. He said the city could establish a rate lower than $2.72 for individuals who stay below that level.

Currently, 37 percent (409) of the city’s residential customers use less than 40,000 gallons per month.

Depending on water usage over the next couple of years, Eitel said the council may want to adopt a three-tier pricing system.

City Clerk Brenda Davis said that some cities establish a “base rate” for its residential customers based on their usage from December to February. That would eliminate water used for lawns and gardens.

She also said this might also create a more fair rate system for those households with only a couple of people, compared to those with five or six residents.

“Nothing we do is going to be fair for everyone,” said Kuntzsch.

 

Multi-Dwellings

Concern was expressed by Kay Schmitt, owner of Artistic Homes, about the impact of higher rates on apartment complexes and multi-family units which share a single meter.

A single meter, for example, may exceed 40,000 gallons per month, but it may be connected to several apartment units.

“The (rate) committee understands there has to be an adjustment for multiple dwellings on a single meter,” acknowledged Councilman Fred Kuntzsch.

Eitel agreed that if there wasn’t an adjustment made for the multi-family dwellings then the rates would unfairly penalize those individuals. He said the other option would be to install a single meter for each residence, which would be an added expense to the city.

Public Works Director Mike Todd said that all new housing, including apartments, is being supplied with individual meters. He noted that it would be a lot of work, and expense, to put all existing multi-family units on separate meters.

The council agreed that in those instances where three or more living units are on a single meter, each will be treated separately for billing purposes. However, the owner of those properties must certify they have three or more units prior to the new rates going into effect.

The council did not set a date when the new rate structure would take effect.

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Breakdown of Scott City

Residential Water Usage

Average Use Per Month Households Percent

Under 40,000 Gallons 409 37%

40,001 to 60,000 Gallons 156 14%

60,001 to 80,000 Gallons 77 7%

80,001 to 100,000 Gallons 39 4%

100,001 to 150,000 Gallons 9 1%

150,001 to 200,000 Gallons 5 1/2%

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