Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sewer fees on the rise

November 1, 2007

The average sewer bill for Lansing residents will increase this month, but city officials insist a new rate structure will be fairer for all.

The City Council adopted an ordinance on Aug. 16 in which all sewer customers would pay a $12 base charge, plus $2 per unit in 2007 and 2008, and then a 25-cent increase in the per-unit cost for each year until 2013.

Previously, customers who used zero to six wastewater units were charged a base fee of $17 per month plus $2.35 for each additional unit.

City Clerk Sunshine Petrone said many residents were being overcharged because the previous rate was based on a citywide average. Now, she said, residents would be charged only for what they use personally, which she said would especially benefit senior citizens who tend to use the least.

A six-unit household, which Patrone said is the city's average, would have paid $17 under the old ordinance but will now pay $24 in 2007 and 2008. However, a one-unit household, which originally paid $17, will now be charged $14.

Patrone said rate adjustment was necessary if the city was going to meet its goal of making its wastewater system self-sufficient in five years.

So far, City Administrator Mike Smith said he hasn't had any phone calls about people complaining about the rate change. He said the city had published the change several places so that when residents open the first bill reflecting the change, it won't be a surprise.

While she may not have called the city, Angela Goff, Lansing, said she wasn't happy about the increased rates. She said this isn't the first time the rates have been increased and added that she can't understand why the city would think it's fair to do to its residents.

For Bob Hersh, Lansing, the increase was caused by the city not planning far enough into the future for the debt that occurred when improvements were made to the wastewater plant.

"It doesn't surprise me," he said, adding that the increase was probably necessary at this point but could have been avoided with more planning.

While the new bill will affect him, he said he's lived here 30 years and has no intentions of leaving.

Smith said the amount a person is charged is directly controlled by them and how much water they choose to use. He said for the first time, residents are in total control of the amount they will pay, which should make the payment structure a fairer program.

Part of the council's original discussion when planning the ordinance, was whether the Lansing Correctional Facility would be subject to the change. Patrone said that talks are in the works between the city and facility. She said that there would be an increase, but it was unsure when it would occur and how much it would be.

Payment for the Nov. 1 water bill will be due Nov. 25. But before then, Smith said he expects to hear from a few callers as the bills begin to arrive.

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