Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

City may require deposit for sewer service

September 7, 2006

Future residents who rent homes in Lansing will be required to post several months' deposit for utility services, possibly as much as $150, if Lansing City Council passes an ordinance addressing new state legislation.

At a work session Thursday, Aug. 31, the council discussed strategies for coping with House Bill 2592, which was created to remove landlords' liability if a tenant accrues delinquent utility bills. Because landlords can no longer be held accountable, the council is now faced with protecting the city from losing money to renters who do not pay their trash and sewage bills.

HB 2592 is causing trouble for Lansing and other small towns that do not own in-flowing water services. Water and sewage services are closely tied: Sewage billing is calculated based on the amount of water used and is generally "always on." Because Lansing cannot force Lan-Del Water District to withhold water to an address, the city cannot prevent a resident from using sewage services.

And some council members fear the city's refusal to pick up trash at an address would only result in more litter in Lansing neighborhoods.

The city's only recourse in protecting itself from delinquent contracts is to charge a deposit, which the state limits to three months' expected service. Several council members said they worried about the effect on Lansing's growth, but others had their thoughts on the city's bank account when considering the deposit.

"It's got to be significant enough to make them pay their bills so they can get it back," said Andi Pawlowski, Ward 2 representative.

The only alternative suggested was investigating the possibility of the city of Lansing purchasing Lan-Del Water District, but that was quickly thrown out. When the city had previously discussed the acquisition, the cost was staggering.

"The last time we did this, the cost was going to be the cost of all the water lines in the city," Mayor Ken Bernard said.

Also in discussion at the work session was a revised noise ordinance proposal for the city, which would make it easier to file complaints and seek action against noisy neighbors.

The ordinance is based on Wichita's policy but was tailored for Lansing by the city prosecutor. It would require only one person to make a complaint, which may now be verbal, before action could be taken.

Council member Don Studnicka, who said the former proposed ordinance was almost completely ineffective in enabling residents to affect noisy neighbors, hailed the change.

But other members suggested changes to ensure summertime construction crews would not be hindered by the timing restrictions imposed by the ordinance.

The council is expected to address the proposed ordinances at a future meeting.

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