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Newton tackles 'unfair' water/sewer rates, minimum charges

April 4, 2011

After a Newton landlord said the city is unfair in its minimum billing practices for utility services, City Council is discussing the rate structure for water and sewer customers.
During a February City Council meeting, Newton landlord Tom Dixon questioned Newton's utility billing practices, and in particular, the minimum fees placed on low use customers.
"To get services from the city, you have to pay for all of them. You can't just have electricity, water, sewer or solid waste pick-up — you have to have all of them or you can't get any," he said during the Feb. 15 meeting.
Water and sewer customers are also billed for a monthly minimum of 3,000 gallons of usage, regardless of how much water they consume.
"I think these policies are unfair and unethical to the citizens of our town," Dixon said. "It puts a burden on citizens."
However, Newton leaders say removing that "burden" on some customers could create greater problems for other customers or the city as a whole.
Newton City Manager Todd Clark said eliminating the requirement for citizens to obtain all three utility services — water/sewer, electricity, solid waste pick-up — would "represent a loss of revenue." So, too, would elimination of minimum charges.
"There would be a loss of revenue. That is the whole issue," he said. "You would be shifting costs to somewhere else."
For its utility services, Newton faces operational costs, maintenance costs and replacement costs for the city's infrastructure — particular its water and sewer lines, Clark said.
"Those are all costs associated with operating a business enterprise," he said, explaining that if revenue from minimum usage billing is decreased or eliminated, "at some point, the people who use more water will make up the difference."
Newton City Council will discuss the city's water and sewer rate structure during a work sessison set for 6 p.m. Tuesday. Details discussed Tuesday are expected to include the most current information on water and sewer revenues as well as customer usage.
This isn't the first time City Council has discussed the city's water and sewer rate structure. It discussed minimum usage during its budget planning sessions last year, and the topic arose again during its annual planning workshop this year.
The Council took no formal action at that time.
The work session meeting will preceded City Council's regular meeting at 7 p.m.
Other items on the Tuesday night agenda include:
• Presentation of the city's capital improvement plan.
• A text amendment to set civil penalties for violation of the cities soil and erosion control rules.
• Consent agenda items declaring nuisance violations at six residential properties and a code violation for a recreational vehicle.


Bravo Tom!

April 5, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 4 years 8 weeks ago
Comment: 282

It is absolutely completely unfair and unethical to force someone ot pay for something they do not use.
As I climb up to my soapbox I have some ideas for Newtonians to "chew" on:
a. PRIVATIZE ALL UTILITIES, DO IT NOW! (Savings-pensions/health care no longer needed for many City Workers!)
b. RETURN TO A LARGELY VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT-(Savings-Same, perhaps a couple to drive the trucks and the rest as volunteers, as we have had for 150 plus years!)
c. consolidate the leadership of the Fire and Police Department into one Multi-Function "Public Safety DepartmenT (Savings, just one administrative and logistic support structure, vice two as in now!)
d. Eliminate all upper management positions except for a City Manager, with a reduced footprint, he or she will have a reduced City Government (read number of employees) to control. It is A ONE MAN JOB!)
e. DO NOT ANNEX ONE MORE SQUARE INCH OF LAND, until you can take care of what you have now! Annexation is only a form of REVENUE GROWING AND IT IS FREAKIN WRONG!
g. Conduct ALL CITY BUSINESS in the open, INCLUDING PERSONELL ACTIONS. If they work for the people, the people have a right to know what is going on!
h. Build new Water Lines and sewer lines now. Spend the money and save on the maintenance costs associated with upkeep of an antiquated system!
I. Sit down and relax and have some T.E.A.! (Its going to be a beautiful spring!)

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